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Early Text

Although finding medieval text inscriptions in a church is most certainly one of the most exciting discoveries it is also one of the most frustrating. The temptation when finding text inscriptions is to try and read them. However, almost half the text inscriptions recorded to date have remained undecipherable. In many cases this is simply because the inscription itself is too worn to do anything other than recognise it as text and identify the odd letter.


In other cases the problems lie with the person who created the inscription in the first place. Medieval Latin inscriptions, most probably created by a cleric, are often truncated, abbreviated and incomplete, as was common practice at the time. However, unless all the letters are extremely clear it is often not possible to establish exactly what the abbreviated word was originally intended to be. In addition, certain text inscriptions, such as the ‘cryptogram’ located at All Saints, Litcham, tend to merge the letters into each other, making the final down stroke of one letter also be the first down stroke of the next letter. Combined together these factors do make text inscriptions difficult to decipher for even the most experienced historian.