Medieval Writing
Cursive Document Hand

Script Type : minuscule cursive

Date : 14th century

Location : France

Function : document hand

This shows the upper left hand corner of a document of 1383 in the French language, in which a French knight acknowledges payment from the paymaster of the king's wars for his participation in a campaign against the English, 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 is a somewhat rough and untidy Gothic cursive document hand. The letters selected for the alphabet are some of the more carefully formed examples from the document, but many others are more carelessly written. In general, the letters tend to an angular Gothic form rather than a rounded style.

Distinctive characteristics include very thickened ascenders and descenders on letters like s, f and l, sometimes apparently having a second pen stroke down the letter. The letters g and y have curly descenders, and g is formed like a y with a horizontal stroke through the top. The letter j has an extravagant curl on top. The letters d and b have very curled ascenders.

There are two forms of s, the tall and the short form, although the latter varies from a very curly type which looks a bit like an 8 to a fairly minimalist squiggle.

As with many scripts of this type, the small letters can tend to form themselves into indistinguishable rows of minims, as i, n, m, u, v and even r become difficult to untangle.

There are no examples of k or w, but z appears several times.

The spelling is rather different from modern French, and there are no accents over the letters. There are numerous abbreviations. Pass the cursor slowly over the bit of the example given to pick out some words.

This document has a rather interesting place in the history of the Hundred Years' War, but to find out more about that, you will have to go 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 16/5/2005.