Note From Andrea: Today we have another special post by Stephanie Pettigrew! Enjoy!
When I first started doing my research, the biggest problem I encountered was simply deciphering my texts. As many of you already know, I work on documents from sixteenth and seventeenth New France. In North America, there are far more resources available specifically for English etymology and paleography, the study of historic handwriting and handwritten texts. Christopher Moore contends in a recent blog post that paleography is dying a slow and painful death, and I don’t completely disagree with him; the growing dependence on crowd-sourcing transcription projects is a huge concern. But even when sources are transcribed for you, as a historian you are still expected to consult the original source. Several universities offer undergraduate courses in medieval English and middle English. One school that I attended even had a course on reading medieval Scottish handwriting (complete with its own textbook!). Leah Grandy also has already done some fantastic blog posts introducing the issue of paleography, which I highly recommend (“What Does That Say?!”: Getting Started with Paleography is particularly helpful!) While all of these are valuable resources, they aren’t really helpful when it comes to dealing with my documents. So in today’s blog post, I’m going to talk about some of the main challenges of working with early modern French written texts and provide you with some tips and tricks that will hopefully make this work a little bit easier!