Medieval Writing
Paleography Exercises
13th century charter of the abbey of Wilton (British Library, Harleian Charter 45 A36). All images by permission of the British Library.
This 13th century charter is a grant by the nunnery of Wilton, in Wiltshire, to an individual, John Colewine and his heirs, of two ferlings of land in perpetuity. A ferling represents four acres. In return, he and his heirs must pay an annual rent of twelve shillings at Michaelmas. This is similar in conception to the charter of Bury St Edmunds, also in these examples, except that the rent in this case is more substantial. As with that other example, this represents a tinkering with the feudal landholding system. The abbess of Wilton was in the unusual position of being a feudal tenant of the crown, with its attendant advantages and obligations. It is intriguing that the Catholic Encyclopedia describes it as a "privilege" while the Victoria County History for Wiltshire details the enormous burden this placed on the abbey in the 13th century, resulting in a continuing process of land dealings for knight's fees to meet their obligations. Anyway, that is another story.
The script is a very loopy cursive, of the type designated cursiva anglicana. There are many abbreviations. The charter ends with the usual list of witnesses, but it is not dated. However, the abbess mentioned in the charter, Matilda de la Mara, presided from 1252 to around 1271. The seal of the abbey is attached sideways by two parchment tags to the folded up lower edge of the document. The language is Latin.

| overview | seal | text | alphabet | abbreviations | structure | exercises |

| 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 this example
Index of Exercises
Index of Scripts

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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 12/5/2005.