Medieval Writing
13th Century Informal English Chancery Hand

Script Type : minuscule

Script Family : cursiva anglicana

Date : early 13th century

Location : England

Function : Document hand of more informal nature

This is the first few lines of a writ of Henry III, from 1234 (British Library, add. charter 28402). (From The New Palaeographical Society 1908, Plate 150)  
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.  

Distinctive letters : This is an example of the more informal type of chancery hand, used for documents such as writs, rather than the more elaborate and mannered scripts used for charters. It retains the basic forms of cursiva anglicana, but without the elaborations and mannerisms such as split or curly ascenders. It is only partially cursive, as some letters are separated while others are joined. It is also small in size; whatever it looks like on your screen, the original measures just over 6 inches in width, or about 15.5 cm. The document is addressed to the foresters of Essex, informing them that certain unruly barons have made peace with the king.

The script has the distinctive letters of cursiva anglicana, although the curl on the top of a is more often reduced to a short extension. The tightly closed g like a figure of eight is present. The letter r extends slightly below the baseline, but not in such an exaggerated manner as in more formal scripts. The simplified r which resembles a z may appear after o. The short and curly s is open at the top but closed at the bottom.

In general, ascenders are slightly curved rather than curly, and the whole thing has an appearance of having been written in a somewhat hasty slashing style. This tends to create havoc with the letters composed of minims, so that i, n, m, u and v can descend into confusion.

The letter v is distinguished from u only when it occurs at the beginning of a word. The letter w is composed of two interlocked vs. The letter y is dotted, but i is not.

There are no examples of j, k or z in this sample.

The text contains extensive abbreviation, as it was directed at readers who were supposed to know all the formulaic bits already.

Pass the cursor slowly over the segment illustrated to follow the text. Take a look at the paleography exercise to look at the whole thing in more detail.

Script Index  

Paleography exercises using Flash

These require at least the Flash 5 plugin


If you are looking at this page without frames, there is more information about medieval writing to be found by going to the home page (framed) or the site map (no frames).
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 5/8/2008.