Sometimes trying to decipher old handwriting can be a real agony, not to mention the changes in the meanings and words. Here are some links to assist you to make sense of artistic, old handwriting:
UK National Archives:
Tips and interactive tutorials (and a great ducking stool game)
Cambridge English Renaissance Electronic Service:
Alphabets (in the link – click on each letter and see alternative forms of writing)
Deciphering Old Handwriting by Sabina J. Murray:
Tips on abbreviations etc and commonsense advice.
Old English was used prior to the 12th century and it was followed by Middle English, which was used until the late 15th century.
You can access a free online book: A Concise Dictionary of Middle English by Mayhew and Skeat on Project Gutenberg’s site at:
Middle English was followed by Early Modern English (period of Shakespeare etc) that was used until the 18th century.
Google has digitised Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language, 1768, which is accessible for free (it takes a while to download).:
You may also find some very useful links in the following page: