The project NOTAE represents the first attempt to investigate the presence of graphic symbols in documentary records as a historical phenomenon from Late Antiquity to early medieval Europe. Graphic symbols are meant here as graphic signs (including alphabetical ones) drawn as a visual unit in a written text and representing something other than a word of that text. New in this project is the idea of considering the graphic execution of these symbols as a matter of the scribal culture, as – we could say – the ‘other side’ of the written world, and consequently as an object of palaeographical analysis. The physical act of drawing symbols in written documents theoretically placed on the same footing literates (professional scribes, bureaucrats, economic élites etc.) and illiterates. The project aims to investigate the graphic symbols in order to capture all the possible historical implications by studying their graphic execution as well as their models and cross-influences, their contexts and transmissions, with the purpose to frame also the category of ‘illiterates’ for each significant period and region involved in the wide historical and geographical span with which the project is engaged. The NOTAE-System as final result of the project will represent a public repository of graphic symbols collected in original documentary sources from Late Antiquity to early Middle Ages: an evidence-based historical and dynamic Atlas of a graphic inheritance from the past, which will be available to all those scholars who will be somehow interested in these historical objects and in what they can still say as historical sources.
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