Medieval Writing
Paleography Exercises
Bilingual Psalter, late 15th or early 16th century. From a private collection. Photographs © Dianne Tillotson.

This is an interesting sample, not least because of some mystery as to its origins and purpose, and because there are some little conundrums in its production values. It is evidently a leaf from a psalter in which the text is entered verse by verse, first in Latin, then in French. There appear to be some accents or pronunciation guides over words in the Latin text. This is not a huge and fancy volume for placing on a church lectern, or for impressing the visitors, but it does have some elegant features. It is quite small, the page size being approximately 14 x 10 cm, and the written area around 11 x 6 cm.

It is written on paper, but it is a very fine quality dense paper with a very white finish that could pass for fine vellum if you didn't look too closely. In a good light you can see the characteristic striated appearance of medieval paper. Intriguingly, this shows up more clearly on the scan than in real life. There may be a fragment of a watermark in the top left hand corner, but it is impossible to make anything out of it. You cannot see that on the scan. So it is written on the cheaper medium for late medieval books.

The script is a late Gothic cursive, which may be ascribed a complex name if that is your inclination, but such scripts were becoming so hybridised by this time that it hardly seems worth the trouble. Suffice to say that while it is fully cursive, flowing, and even somewhat casual in some letter forms, it still comes out very neat and legible, which is more than can be said for many 16th century hands. Each verse begins with a tiny but elegant illuminated capital and there are intricate little line fillers, so somebody has lavished some meticuluous attention on it, even though the script is not a formal book hand.

I would be guessing that this is a text for study and learning, enabling some cleric whose Latin may not have been so fluent as that of his learned predecessors of earlier centuries, to learn his Latin psalter, and furthermore, to be able to read it aloud with some degree of accuracy, understanding and conviction. The cheaper medium of paper and the relatively rapidly written script suggest that it is a personal item rather than a display volume, while the intricate detailing suggests that it was a valued possession.

The text of this page is Psalm 106 (107 in a modern Bible) verses 28 through 37.

| overview | text | alphabet | abbreviations | exercises | transcript | translation |

Click on each of the above to walk your way through the text. The transcript will appear in a separate window so that you can use it for reference at any time. These exercises are designed to guide you through the text, not test you, so you can cheat as much as you like.
Script sample for this example
Index of Exercises
Index of Scripts

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This site is created and maintained by Dr Dianne Tillotson, freelance researcher and compulsive multimedia and web author. Comments are welcome. Material on this web site is copyright, but some parts more so than others. Please check here for copyright status and usage before you start making free with it. This page last modified 8/4/2006.