Medieval Writing  
Late 13th Century English Chancery Hand

Script Type : minuscule

Script Family : cursiva anglicana

Date : late 13th century

Location : England, royal chancery

Function : Document hand or charter hand

This is the upper left corner of a document of letters patent of Edward I, from 1291 (Westminster Abbey Muniments 6318B). (From The New Palaeographical Society 1908, Plate 175)  
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This is an example of the formal cursiva anglicana script of the late 13th century, as produced in a formal document, in this case letters patent of King Edward I. The style is distinctive, retaining some of the split ascenders in some examples of b, h, l, f and long s, but is developing the loopy look of the script of the 14th century.

The definitive forms of cursiva anglicana are there: a consisting of a double closed loop, short and curly closed g, the long and open r that descends below the baseline although the simplified r that looks like z makes an appearance after the letter o, and the short and curly s with an open upper loop and closed lower loop.

The letter d has the distinctive loopy appearance with strongly marked thin upstroke and heavy downstroke. The letter t is short with a broad cross stroke. The letter x has a curly descender, making it possible to confuse it with g if you are not careful.

The letters i and j are not distinguished, and neither are u and v, except where v occurs at the beginning of a word.

The letter w is no longer composed of two simple interlocked vs, but it developing the extra loops that turn it into the large and extravagant English celebration w. I wonder if it is a coincidence that this seems to occur during the reigns of kings called Edward. It does give the first word of their proclamations a certain flourish.

Pass the cursor slowly over the segment illustrated to pick out some words. As this sample does not extend across the full width of the document, the text is not continuous, so it doesn't make too much sense. Unfortunately, this is not the world's greatest scan, but I couldn't resist the subject matter. The king is announcing that he has had delivered to the abbey of Fontevraud the heart of his deceased father, King Henry III, as promised. Organ donation meant something rather different in the middle ages. A paleography exercise will be forthcoming, with the text enlarged so that you can read all about it.

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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 20/2/2008.