Medieval Writing
Bastarda Book Hand

Script Type : minuscule

Date : 15th century

Location : England

Function : Book hand , although similar scripts were also used as document hands.

This is a segment from an early 15th century Brut Chronicle (British Library, add. ms. 33242, f.141), detailing events in the reign of Edward III. This passage describes him sailing off to the seige of Calais. By permission of the British Library.
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This script has essentially similar letter forms to the bastarda book hand of the Hoccleve example also shown in this example set, but the style is notably less neat and formal. The spelling and some antiquated vocabulary can make reading the text a little tricky.

Ascenders and descenders of letters such as b, d, g, or h tend to be curled into loops. The letter k is quite elaborate, but w is simplified compared to many earlier scripts. There are two forms of s, the tall and the short and curly, and two forms of r, both tending to minimalistic. The letter j is differentiated from i by curly flourishes. The smaller letters derived from those formed with minims in formal Gothic scripts have the usual tendency to be similar, so that u,v and n can easily be confused, although there is some variation in form. The special thorn character for th is generally only used in abbreviated words, th being written out in full in most cases.

There are a few abbreviations.

Pass the cursor down the rows of text to get a taste for it. For further details, have a go at the paleography exercises. You might find this one a bit surprising.

Script Index

Palaeography exercises using Flash

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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 14/10/2011.