Handwriting: the hand attribute and the hand element

hand handList

For the elements which typically are used to encode handwritten parts of the text, the TEI provides a way of indicating the identity or nature of the handwriting in question. This is done through the hand attribute, which is available on add, addSpan, del, delSpan, and handShift.

The value of the hand attribute is an IDREF which points to a hand element in the TEI header. This hand element documents the salient facts about the handwriting in question. One hand element must appear for each handwriting being identified; these hand elements are grouped together within the handList element inside the profileDesc, right after the langUsage element.

It is important to understand that each hand element describes a set of characteristics associated with a given handwriting found in the text. The hand elements do not necessarily map onto individual scribes; you may wish to describe several distinct hands used by a single scribe (for instance, using different pens or written at different times), or you may wish to describe a single hand which you suspect may belong to several authors who cannot be distinguished from one another. The hand element represents the identification of meaningfully distinct handwritings in the text, however these may be determined.

Each distinct handwriting being identified can possess a number of different characteristics, which may each be documented using the various attributes of the hand element.

These characteristics include:

For most projects dealing with printed books, most of these provisions go well beyond what is necessary, and we do not recommend that you use these features unless you can identify a clear need to do so. For any handwriting, though, you will need to use the id and scribe attributes.


Example 1.

In the following example, the addition is in Eleanor Davies’ handwriting; the handList element in the teiHeader lists all the people whose handwriting appears in the text (including one other person who is unidentified).

<handlist><hand id="unknown.zzx">
<p>                <hand id="EDavies.new"></p>
<p>...And such passages <add hand="EDavies.new">By</add>or straits, setting forth his prerogative...</p>