Medieval Writing
Paleography Exercises
Final Concord of 1584 (British Library, add. charter 70729). All images by permission of the British Library.
The date of this document could not be regarded as medieval, even by those English historians who want to drag the middle ages into the 16th century, but it represents a medieval anachronism in terms of the form of the document, the Latin language, the script and the legal process that was represented. It essentially represents a land transfer in London, John and Elizabeth Chester having sold three messuages (or blocks of land for domestic dwellings), one yard and a wharf to William Gardyner. The document itself is a final concord, a form of indenture ratified in the courts, as a consequence of the bringing of a fictitious suit. It works like this. John and Elizabeth want to sell some land to William, so they make a gift of it to him. He then takes them to court, claiming that the land is his because they gave it to him. They make an agreement with him in the court that it is his, and he pays them 200 marks. The document is drawn up in triplicate and separated by wavy cuts, each party holding one half, to serve as a title deed, while the courts held the third copy, known as feet of fines. There is some writing across the cut, and matching this up was a part of the authentication of the document. Because the document is ratified in the courts, there are no seals, signatures or lists of witnesses.
If you want to find out why they did it that way, there is some information in the Law section of Dave Postle's Medieval Palaeography website from Leicester University. To understand it further, you are going to have to delve more deeply into the inticacies of English legal history.
This form of legal process continued to be carried out until 1833, when land laws were changed. Intriguingly, the final concords produced right through the centuries continued to have the same wording, Latin language, and an increasingly artificial looking rendering of the legal script. A user of this website sent me a scan of a document from the time of Queen Anne which in layout, wording and script was almost identical to this one. It even used the antiquated medieval word messuage.

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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 20/5/2005.