Medieval Writing
Calligraphic Charter Hand - English

Script Type : minuscule

Script Family : Gothic

Date : 13th century

Location : England

Function : Document hand or charter hand

This is the full text of a private charter of the 13th century (British Library, add. charter 20592). By permission of the British Library.
In this document one Alan de Witcherche sells three serfs for a silver mark. The script is a neat calligraphic charter hand. The names of the witnesses are added at the bottom in a similar, but more untidy, hand.
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This script is easy to read as most of the letters, particularly the small letters, have the familiar forms of Caroline minuscule or perhaps a more angular protogothic type. English document hand has changed from the spiky style of the 12th century to something that resembles a book hand with exaggerated flourishes, more closely resembling the Continental diploma hands of the period.

As with all those scripts, s is tall while t is short and wide. The whole appearance of the script is given a certain calligraphic flourish with exaggerated and sometimes curling ascenders and descenders on letters such as b, d, g, h, l and the extravagant s.

The trick letter is q as the descender hooks to the left instead of the right.

The letters u and v are identical. There are no examples shown of j, k, x, y or z. The letter W, which does not occur in Latin, is here seen only as a capital at the beginning of English names. It is also presented in a swashbuckling style.

The script might also be referred to as a chancery hand, although this style was not restricted to the royal chancery. This particular document is in the format of a charter, but records a purely private transaction between individuals.

There are numerous abbreviations in the text. Pass the cursor slowly over the lines of text to work it out. To examine it in more detail, proceed to the paleography exercises.

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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 8/5/2005.