Medieval Writing
Late15th Century English Chancery Hand

Script Type : minuscule

Script Family : Gothic bastarda

Date : late 15th century

Location : England

Function : Document hand or charter hand

This is a segment from a chancery warrant of 1491 in which the king, Henry VIII, orders Sir Thomas Fitzwilliam, keeper of the park at Connesburgh Hawe, to deliver 12 quick does for Bryan Sandeford, Squire of the Body, to stock his park at Thorp. The text is in English. (Nottinghamshire Archives DDFJ 10/9/3). By permission of Nottinghamshire Archives.
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : A colleague once criticised that my palaeography examples are all show ponies, with beautiful scripts photographed under ideal conditions, and do not represent what you actually find in the record offices. Well, this one was photographed by me standing on a chair in the Nottinghamshire Archives under fluorescent lights and with fairly ordinary camera equipment. Any difficulties you find with reading it are the kind you find in the real world of archives.

The script is a chancery hand derived from bastarda, in a fairly cursive style. The ascenders of letters like b, d, h and l tend to be loopy, although there is an alternative form of d with a strongly backsloping ascender. The letter s is tall. The descender of q curls to the left, making it look a bit like a g. The letter w, as usual, is large but not especially elaborate. The letter r is quite variable; two examples are given above. The letters n, u and v are indistinguishable, giving rise to the possibility of alternative transcriptions and endless arguments.

There are no examples of j or x.

The language is English, but the spelling might have you tricked in places. Pass the cursor slowly along the first few lines of text and see if it looks like that to you.To find out more about it, proceed to the paleography exercises.

Note: I have changed the date of this document here from the early 16th century to the late 15th century on the basis of information given to me by a historian, Nathaniel Taylor. To find out more, proceed to the paleography exercises.

Conisborough Castle Here is a completely gratuitous picture of the medieval royal castle at Conisborough in Yorkshire, just to show that it exists. It is now an English Heritage site and is open to the public. There are no longer any deer there.
Script Index

Paleography exercises using Flash

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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 3/6/2008.