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Goose Quill, Squiggle, Ink Blot – Reading and Writing Kurrent Script

Event Label
Free course held in German
Organisational Units
University Library
Location Address (1)
Schillerplatz 3
Location ZIP and/or City (1)
1010 Vienna
Location Room (1)
University Library (Reading room, M7)

A three-unit Kurrent workshop of the University Archives with Ulrike Hirhager as part of the Academy Library’s WissensWert event series

A great-granduncle’s postcard from the front, a great-grandmother’s recipe notebook, a handwritten letter by Chancellor of State Metternich, a caption on a faded photograph— all of these are most likely written in Kurrent.
Kurrent—from Lat. currens, running or cursive—was the common script in the German-speaking area (with Sütterlin as a variant) from the advent of the modern period up until the early 1940s.The use of a nib informs the characteristic impression of the script: angular, right-leaning shapes and strokes of varying thickness, ascending loops, consonant-doubling macrons, and letters sometimes distinguishable only through diacritics.

For historians and other researchers as well as amateurs with an interest in genealogy, knowledge of Kurrent script is indispensable. Our workshop offers a brief introduction to paleography, teaches the Kurrent alphabet as well as the use of quill and steel nib, and provides assistance with deciphering ‘treasures’ of handwriting brought in by participants.

Monolingual course format (German); with Ulrike Hirhager, University Archives.
Min. 3 to max. 7 participants | Registration required at
Please let us know upon registration about your expectations and wishes and prepare the documents you want to be discussed in the workshop.

Kurrent – Unit 1: 9 November 2023, 2:30–4:30 p.m.
Following a round of introductions, which also includes participants’ expectations and wishes, is a brief introduction to paleography with an overview of the development of Kurrent from the chancery bastarda to the common script in German speaking countries. A visit to the archives provides insights into the tasks of the archivists and the archival holdings with a highlight on individual documents and matriculation registers from different centuries. A look at tools and materials needed for restoration/conservation of the holdings of the archive completes the visit.
After playfully learning the Kurrent alphabet (with the help pf memory cards) and working with the Kurrent textbook there will be first writing exercises using the quill and steel nib.

Kurrent – Unit 2: 16 November 2023, 2:30–4:30 p.m.
The second day starts with a tour of the library’s heritage-protected Reading Room. After that, using old reading books and originals from the archive, participants practice Kurrent reading and writing as well as dating the time of origin based on writing style.
The unit is concluded with examinations of documents brought in by participants.

Kurrent – Unit 3: 23 November 2023, 2:30–4:30 p.m.
The unit starts with repeating what was previously learned. This is followed by more writing practice based on watercolor paintings from the Academy’s Graphic Collection (a special assignment) plus reading and transcription exercises using archival or brought documents. To conclude the course, each participant is given an opportunity to design their own course certificate.


In its Teaching Library Program entitled WissensWert [Worth Knowing], the University Library of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna offers introductory courses, trainings, and other educational events to teach information literacy.

The program comprises beginners’ courses how to use the library as well as expert trainings in e-media research. These courses address issues of access, evaluation, processing and responsible use of information. Why are many databases free to use; (how) is information evaluated; what does peer-reviewed mean, and what is an impact factor (IF); why is Google so popular and what the entailed dangers? The programs are target audience-oriented in design, with accompanying scripts for in-depth self-study. The goal is to provide participants with the skills and abilities needed to cope with the demands of our information and knowledge society.
University Archives
Graphic Collection

Further dates:
16 and 23 Nov 2023, 2:30–4:30 p.m.
Registration required
Fully booked out!

Please observe the protection measures in place at the Academy: Covid-19 Guidelines