The aim of the paper is to present a model for the description of runic graphs and a method for their classification into graph-types and graph-type variants. The classification of runic graphs into graph-types and variants requires the establishment of typological criteria. Runologists have described runic graphs in various ways, employing different sets of graphic elements and different sets of graphic traits, such as the length of runes’ branches, their height, their direction and their angle (see e.g. Loman 1965, Spurkland 1991, Fjellhammer Seim 1998).
The classification process presents, however, several theoretical and practical problems, e.g. the difficulty of defining the difference between graph-types on the one hand and between graph-types and variants on the other; the use of functional criteria, that is graph-types’ supposed graphemic status, in a graphic based typology; the classification of dotted runes and ”unconventional” runic forms such as bind runes, inverted and reversed runes.
The establishment of a solid classification of runic graphs is not only the first step in the study of graph-types’ graphemic status, but also the basis of palaeographic studies about how runic forms were used during different chronological periods, in different geographic areas and on different types of material. Examples of this kind of research will be given during the presentation and some results of a study about the development and usage of runic forms in medieval Gotland will be discussed.