Digital Hebrew Paleography: Script Types and Modes

Ahmad Droby, Irina Rabaev, Daria Vasyutinsky Shapira, Berat Kurar Barakat, Jihad El-Sana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Paleography is the study of ancient and medieval handwriting. It is essential for under-standing, authenticating, and dating historical texts. Across many archives and libraries, many handwritten manuscripts are yet to be classified. Human experts can process a limited number of manuscripts; therefore, there is a need for an automatic tool for script type classification. In this study, we utilize a deep-learning methodology to classify medieval Hebrew manuscripts into 14 classes based on their script style and mode. Hebrew paleography recognizes six regional styles and three graphical modes of scripts. We experiment with several input image representations and network architectures to determine the appropriate ones and explore several approaches for script classification. We obtained the highest accuracy using hierarchical classification approach. At the first level, the regional style of the script is classified. Then, the patch is passed to the corresponding model at the second level to determine the graphical mode. In addition, we explore the use of soft labels to define a value we call squareness value that indicates the squareness/cursiveness of the script. We show how the graphical mode labels can be redefined using the squareness value. This redefinition increases the classification accuracy significantly. Finally, we show that the automatic classification is on-par with a human expert paleographer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number143
JournalJournal of Imaging
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2022


  • Hebrew medieval manuscripts
  • convolutional neural network
  • deep-learning based classification
  • digital paleography
  • handwritten style analysis
  • script type classification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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