Medieval Writing
Protogothic Document Hand

Script Type : minuscule

Alternative Name : transitional Gothic document hand

Date : 12th century

Location : This example is from England

Function : Document hand or charter hand

This sample is the top left hand corner of a charter of 1177-1187 in which Ralph Cuningburgh notifes the Archbishop of York of his grant of land to Byland Abbey (British Library, add. charter 70691). By permission of the British Library.  
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : Compared to the other protogothic English document hand given in these examples, this sample is less elongated and spiky, with squarish angular letters. The individual letter forms are essentially similar. The letter a has an extravagant loop above it, making it look a bit like a d. The ascender of d, however, curls the other way. Ascenders of letters such as b, l or h tend to be notably wedged and even split at the top. The descender of q appears, to our eyes, to curl the wrong way, but is distinguishable from g which has a looped descender. The letter r is quite variable and three forms have been distinguished here, one with a curly descender. Only the tall form of s is used. The letters i and j are identical, as are u and v. The letters k, w and z appear in English place or personal names, but there are no examples of y.

The letter i is not normally dotted, except where it is doubled, in which case the second i is extended down to resemble a j, as in the word


The text is heavily abbreviated and a variety of abbreviation marks is employed, some of them rather jaunty, as if the abbreviations are more for calligraphic flourish than to save space.

Pass the cursor along the top line for an introduction to the text, and mouse around for a few other odd words. The text does not run continuously as it is from a corner of the document. To examine it in more detail, go on 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 3/5/2005.