Palaeography is the study of old writing. However, both terms ‘old’ and ‘writing’ can be interpreted in different ways. Old can mean ancient, earlier than the present or sometime in between. Writing can mean lettering written with a pen, stylus or other similar instrument, or it can have the broader connotation of language made visible by any means including scribing, engraving, carving, casting or printing. Epigraphy is the study of inscriptions in hard materials, especially stone.
As Thomson’s research includes inscriptions on a wide range of materials, the term inscriptional palaeography is appropriate, and can be described as the study of earlier or older inscriptions carved, engraved, painted or written on stone, metal, wood or any other permanent surface.
Because of the extensive resource provided by gravemarkers in Britain, Ireland, the rest of Europe, North America and elsewhere, the study of inscriptional palaeography focuses on, but is not restricted to memorial, and in particular funerary inscriptions.