Palaeography: Challenge 3

Today’s document is brought to you from the fabulous Radcliffe of Rudding Park collection. The collection is a gold mine of weird and wonderful records but one set of documents in particular seems to get all the attention: “Radcliffe vs The Luddites: This Time it Gets Very Personal” (unofficial title, we usually shorten it to WYL280/luddites).

Joseph Radcliffe was a wealthy mill owner and many of his workers, like a lot of workers all over the country, took issue with the increasing reliance on machinery in mills and factories. In short, machines took jobs and the workers took umbrage. Along with the usual machine breaking and sabotage this group of Luddites took the imaginative step of plotting to kill Joseph Radcliffe and writing to him to tell him what they had in mind. One artistically inclined rebel even drew a picture of the gun he claimed he would use to kill Radcliffe. This letter gives us a brief glimpse into Radcliffe’s reaction to the threats and the measures taken to protect him.

Early nineteenth century writing is, in my opinion, the actual worst to transcribe. On the one hand spellings are more consistent as they became more and more standardised and there are fewer shortenings of words with odd little symbols to decode. BUT on the other hand, the handwriting is verging on the disastrous. Paper and postage were cheaper than ever before and more and more people were learning to write. This meant that the hours of patience required to create the beautiful manuscripts of earlier centuries were no longer needed. Mistakes could be made and notes could be dashed off in a moment resulting in a lot less attention being paid to the actual formation of the letters. It makes me, for one, long for a lovely squiggly parchment written by a scribe who missed out half of the letters!

Give it a go, see which you prefer.

There’s just 2 things to warn you about in this document.

  • There’s almost no difference between the capital and lower case letters, especially n, m and p. I have gone for all lower case as I can’t see a difference, with one exception in line 8. If you are confident you can tell the difference feel free to add capitals in, just remember they might not be where you would expect them!
  • The full stops are also a bit questionable, some are real but in odd places and some seem to have leaked through from the address written on the other side.

So, pencils at the ready, get settled and…….go!



Click here for larger image

Click here for answers

2 thoughts on “Palaeography: Challenge 3

  1. Still more legible than mine!
    Very interesting: I would say Mellor was capitalised.
    I felt very ancient the other day when I read that many younger people can’t read cursive script at all now…

    • Glad you like it! I am tempted to agree that Mellor might be capitalised but decided at the last minute the m was just too similar to the others so I went for a lower case instead. There is definitely an argument for both.
      At lease younger people don’t have to try and read letters like these!

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