Medieval Writing
Paleography Exercises
Charter of Henry I to Christ Church, Canterbury, of 1123 (British Library, Campbell Chart. xxi 6). All images by permission of the British Library.
This charter, which is a confirmation by Henry I to the monks of Christ Church Canterbury of all the privileges they held under Edward the Confessor, is interesting for a number of reasons and has been examined and discussed in several books. Firstly, it is bilingual, the text appearing first in Latin and then repeated in the vernacular, Old English. The script of the Latin text could be described as Caroline minuscule or early protogothic, depending on how you see it. A good trick in these marginal situations is to retreat behind that useful term, transitional. More to the point, it is not a charter hand of the period, but a book hand, suggesting that the document has been written up, not in the royal chancery, but in the scriptorium of the monastic beneficiary. The script of the Old English section is a very neat insular minuscule.
Other oddities are that the great seal is not attached in the normal way, but to the side rather than the bottom of the document. The battered green damask cover for the seal is shown beside it. There is also no witness list. This might suggest that the document could be a forgery, and there were plenty of those around in the 12th century. However, scholars have concluded that it is most likely genuine, but probably was written, and perhaps even drafted, by the monks themselves and brought to the chancery to be ratified by seal. A very similar charter, only addressed to archbishop Anselm rather than William, exists in the same collection, and a charter of Henry II in similar form is also in the British Library collection. The English formula is apparently derived from a vernacular writ of Edward the Confessor to Canterbury and the Latin text is a translation, and only a partial one at that, of the Old English. The scribes of Canterbury appear to have been trying to establish their own form of literate tradition with this form of document.
More detail about this group of charters can be found in Johnson and Jenkinson 1915, also Warner and Ellis 1903. also Clanchy 1993.

| overview | seal | text | Latin alphabet | Old English alphabet |

| Latin abbreviations | Old English abbreviations | structure | exercises |

| Latin transcript | Old English transcript | translation |

Click on each of the above to walk your way through the text. The transcript will appear in a separate window so that you can use it for reference at any time. These exercises are designed to guide you through the text, not test you, so you can cheat as much as you like.
Script sample for Latin text
Script sample for English text
Index of Exercises
Index of Scripts

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 17/4/2005.