Medieval Writing
Cursive Document Hand

Script Type : minuscule cursive

Alternative Name : cursiva anglicana

Date : 13th century

Location : England

Function : document hand

This segment is from a 13th century charter (British Library, Harleian Charter 45 A36). The text shown here is not continuous as it is taken from the upper left quarter of the sheet. By permission of the British Library.
The charter records a grant of land by the nunnery of Wilton to one John Colewine in return for an annual payment. The language is Latin and the script, while cursive, does not lack calligraphic elaborations.
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : Because the script is cursive, there is some variability in the letter forms. The letters have some curly calligraphic elaborations, and an upward flourish with a thick curving downstroke is added to the ends of words, sometimes as an abbreviation mark and sometimes just for effect. Letters with ascenders such as b, d, f, l or h are elaborated into loops. There are two forms of r, one with a long descender, and two forms of s, the short curly form and the tall form. The letter c is elaborated with a split back when it occurs at the beginning of words. While the letter j, where it appears, is different to the normal i, it is the same as i when i appears at the beginning of a word. The letters w and k only appear in English names and w as usual is enlarged and elaborate. The letter y does not appear, but there is a rare appearance of z in a Latinised English word.

There are many abbreviations. I personally find this script difficult to read, being distracted by all the extraneous loops, but the resident medievalist says it is easy and rapidly typed up a transcript with the photograph propped behind the keyboard. I guess it's just a matter of practice.

As the text block is not continuous, it doesn't make much sense, but pass the cursor slowly over the picture and see what random words pop out. To look at the example in more details, go on to the paleography exercises.

Script Index
Paleography exercises using Flash

These require at least the Flash 5 plugin

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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 11/5/2005.