Where do I Start?

The National Archives' Palaeography Page is a very good starting point. Here are some recommended pages to view:

    Abbreviations    Dating    Numbers

For further samples of abbreviations from original records visit Contractions.

Practice

Practice reading the following manorial court record by comparing it with the translation that appears below. Some of the letters of special interest from the first part of this tutorial are underlined in the first paragraph of the translation. The h has more of a modern appearance than the curvy one introduced earlier. The portion cut off in the upper left corner of the original document appears in bold script in the translation.

Translation:

Felsted al[ia]s Felsted
Burie and Grand courts
}

A Court Leete and Court Baron houlden [held] for the said Mannor upon Tewesday in Easter weeke
the Twentieth day of Aprill In the yeare of our Lord according to the Accompt [Account] now used in England
One Thowsand Six hundred Fiftie and Two Before John Atwood Esquire Steward thereof by Pattent

Whereas at a Court houlden for the said Mannor upon Tewesday in Easter weeke the Twentieth day of
May in the Three and Twentieth yeare of the raigne of the late King Charles Joseph Hart was admitted
Tenant of the Lord to him and his heires in revercon [reversion] after the death of Edward Hart and Marie his wife to
a Messuage or Tenement with all the yards edifices and buildings thereunto belonging and a peece or p[ar]cell of
Land adioyneing [adjoining] to the said yards called by the name of Sweets conteing [containing] Two Acres and an halfe as
by the rolls of the said Court appeareth Now at this Court it is found by the Homage that since the last Court
and before this Court (That is to say) the Two and Twentieth day of January last past the said Edward Harte &
Joseph Harte did Surrender into the hands of the Lord of the said mannor by the hands of George Overill instead
of the Bayliffe and in the presence of John Peetes and Robert Levitt two of the customarie Tenants of the said
Mannor witnessing the same according to the custome thereof The premisses aforesaid with Th’appurten[an]ces
and the revercon and revercons remainder and remainders thereof To the use and behoofe [behalf] of John Wood
of Felsted the younger and of his heires and Assignes for ever To whome p[re]sent in Court the Lord of the said
Mannor by his Steward aforesaid hath graunted thereof Seisin by the rod To have and to hold to him and
his heires of the Lord by the rod at the will of the Lord according to the custome of the said Mannor by the rents
customes and S[er]vices therefore due and of right accustomed And he gave the Lord for a Fine and did his
Fealtie and was Admitted thereof Tenant:/

Jo: Atwood s:tus

** The bolded words at the beginning of the document are not visible in this image.

Further Practice

While on the National Archives site, click in the left margin on "Interactive Tutorial." You can zoom in on 10 documents and then type what you see line by line. Press "Submit" for instant correction. Practice on documents 2 and 8, a registered copy will and a hearth tax return. Then on the left go to "Further Practice" and choose from the 18th century a Mutineer's song (1797), Information identifying the highwayman, Dick Turpin (1739), and the Inventory (1719). From the 17th century, choose Recipe for mince pies, Petition for freedom to practice religion (1656), and Inventory (1686). At that point or if the above seems too difficult, try the game below. There are also further documents you can practice on under the other web site mentioned above. Hone your skills by frequent practice on the numerous documents now online.

The National Archives' Ducking Stool Game is another great resource.