Monday, January 13, 2020

Stylistic Classification of the Hebrew Scripts

For those interested in Hebrew paleography, I just got word that my article on stylistic classification is now published. My goal in this article was to clarify what paleographers mean by "formality" and lay a theoretical framework for stylistic classification of the Hebrew scripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Drew Longacre, “Disambiguating the Concept of Formality in Palaeographic Descriptions: Stylistic Classification and the Ancient Jewish Hebrew/Aramaic Scripts.” Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies Bulletin 5, no. 2 (2019): 101–128.


The concept of formality in palaeographic analysis is often ill-defined and understood in conflicting ways by the scholars who utilize it. In this article, I attempt to clarify the meaning and significance of formality by suggesting that it is best understood as a multifaceted concept dependent upon the interaction between morphology, execution, and function. From this perspective, formality is an overall impression of the level of handwriting based on the type of model script chosen to reproduce, the skill and care with which it was written, and the purpose(s) for which the embodying manuscript was created. Each aspect can be conceptualized and to some extent analyzed independently in concrete terms other than formality. The resulting, more explicitly-defined nature of formality proposed here then provides a better foundation for hypothesizing about the functions of manuscripts. I apply this schema to the Jewish Hebrew/Aramaic scripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls to show its potential for increased clarity and resolution in stylistic analysis.

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