Medieval Writing
Cursive Document Hand

Script Type : minuscule cursive

Alternative Name : cursiva anglicana

Date : 14th century

Location : England

Function : document hand or chancery hand

This is the top left segment of a chancery warrant of 1349, under Edward III, ordering letters and writs under the great seal to the Bishop of Bath and Wells. (London, National Archives C.81/339/20343). By permission of the National Archives.
The script is a cursive chancery hand. The language is French.
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This might be described as a cursiva anglicana with some extra Latin terms added to indicate its precise state of formality, but it might also simply be described as a cursive chancery hand of somewhat less formal and calligraphic type than that used for charters. The document is a warrant, and being a somewhat less grand and public document than a charter, it is also written in the vernacular, which still happened to be French if you had to deal with royalty.

Being a cursive hand, the letters are a bit variable in form. The ascenders of letters like b, d, h and l tend to be loopy. The letter a is raised with an extra loop. The descender of g curls to the right, while that of q is either straight or curls to the left, which is a bit confusing. There is not much to differentiate the letters n, u and v, except when v comes at the beginning of a word and develops an extra flourish. In fact, there are a few extraneous flourishes, mainly at the ends of words. Both the tall and short forms of s are present. The letter w is large and extravagant as usual. I am beginning to develop a theory about w. As a letter unique to English (It only occurs here in English names.), I think English scribes liked to celebrate it a bit. Alphabetical nationalism. Back to the paleography.

There are numerous abbreviations, some of them indicated by superscript letters that must have been as fiddly to write as the whole word.

The text block shown does not extend across the whole document so it is not continuous, but pass the cursor across it slowly to reveal a few words. For a full examination of the document, try the paleography exercises.

The scruffy old scan from a photocopy that used to adorn this page has now been replaced with a colour photograph from a National Archives download.


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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 11/3/2008.