Reading the writing

Examples of writing from Victorian documents

Victorian handwriting was sometimes good and sometimes awful. Some letters were written differently from the way they are written now. It's amazing how much clearer writing is when you've got your eye in, or someone tells you what it is!

Be methodical in reading a word. Go through letter by letter and identify which letters have ascending strokes (b,d,t etc) and which go below the line (g,y,p etc). Try to spot which are open letters (o,a etc) and which are likely to be closed (i,r etc).

As you identify letters, compare them with other words on the page which are written in the same hand. This will also alert you to quirks in the writer's hand, for example if they always write a letter W in a particular way.

This page shows examples of writing taken from Victorian documents and describes one or two pitfalls.

Upper case letters

Watch out for:

Lower case letters

Watch out for:


Watch out for:

Alert Alfred the Great Alice Abbott
Bloomer British Queen Barbara Innes
Catherine Clarence Cruizer
Danzig David Don Quixote
Effort Envoy Experiment
Fame Friends Fire Fly
Grace Darling Grantham Garibaldi
Henry Reed Hope Hortensia
Ida Isabella Iskander Shah
James Jane Jim
Kate Kingfisher Koh i nor
Lady Kate Livonia Lovely Susan
Majestic Messenger Myrtle
Naomi Napoleon Neptune
Only Son Orissa Osprey
Phoenix Primrose Port Glasgow
Quail Queen of the Dart Quorn
Rising Sun Robert Bright Recruit
Spray Stella Maris Stromness
Thomas & Ann Three Brothers Trial
Unity Utopia Useful
Venus Victoria Voyager
Wolfe Wye Woodpecker
Xanthus X L Xerxes
Yare York Yarmouth
Zephyr Zulu Zurich
108-39-2 209-39-9,64-9 260-39-6,75-20-11
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