Medieval Writing
Cursive Document Hand

Script Type : minuscule cursive

Date : 15th century

Location : England

Function : document hand

This is the upper left hand corner of a Latin private charter of 1444 involving changes to land title in Essex, from the private collection of Rob Schäfer. (Photograph © Rob Schäfer.)
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This script could be described, without getting too technical about it, as a late Gothic cursive document hand. It is neat, but not excessively formal, with a few flourishes, particularly at the ends of words.

Letters such as a, b, d, g and k have looping ascenders or descenders. The letter q has a straight descender. The letter e comes in two forms; one of familiar form, although the cross stroke is sometimes so fine as to be almost invisible, making it look like a c, the other looking as if it is back to front. This seems to be a form peculiar to 15th century cursive hands.

The letter r is variable and three basic forms are identifiable; the simplified form that drops below the baseline, a more compact version which sits on the baseline, and the very simplified form found in Gothic scripts after vowels. The letter s comes in both tall and short, loopy forms, the latter often having the lower loop closed.

As in many scripts of this date, the letters u, v and n are indistinguishable, and when combined with either m or i, can form rows of minims from which individual letters are barely distinguishable.

The letters k and w only appear in English names, where the latter is over large and loopy. There are no examples of j or z.

The text block shown is from the upper left corner of the private charter, and therefore does not show continuous text. Pass the cursor across it slowly to indicate a few words. For a more detailed examination of this interesting document, continue to the paleography exercises.

Script Index

Paleography exercises using Flash

Requires 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 25/5/2005.