Manuscripts and Special Collections

Research Guidance

Using original records for the first time can be quite daunting. The handwriting can be hard to read; unfamiliar words and phrases are often used; and it can be difficult to know which documents to use in order to find relevant information.

These units give advice relating to using and understanding old records. They use examples from the collections held by The University of Nottingham, but researchers using archives from any English record office will find the advice relevant. Each unit includes a list of further reading for researchers who need a more comprehensive approach.

Using Archives 

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A general introduction to archives, where they are kept, how to find relevant material and what to expect on a visit to an archives office.

Caring for the Collections


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Advice on how to handle and store archives and rare books safely to keep them in good condition for the future.

Dating Documents

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Explains some of the most common difficulties with interpreting the different dating conventions used in historical documents.


Weights and Measures

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A guide to deciphering former English and Welsh units of weights, measurements and money, from the late 16th century onwards.

Accounting records 

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Attempts to demystify the ways used to record monetary transactions, from medieval compoti to twentieth-century balance sheets.


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Information to assist users in their understanding and interpretation of different types of deeds, with details of reference sources.


Deeds in depth 

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Following on from the Deeds unit, this is a very detailed guide to reading and understanding old title deeds.

Manorial records 

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A guide to using the various types of documents which were generated by the internal administration of a manor.

Maps and Plans

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Maps and plans are a specialist medium and it is not always immediately obvious just what can be learned from them.


Medieval Books


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How books were made in the Middle Ages, including preparing materials, laying out the text, illustrating and decorating, forming quires, and binding.

Medieval Documents

Introduction to Medieval documents

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Exploring the format, language, handwriting style and abbreviations used in medieval documents. Includes interactive palaeography exercises.


Your feedback on the units mounted so far would be appreciated and will help to inform future developments.


Next page: Introduction to using archives


Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4565
fax: +44 (0) 115 846 8651