Medieval Writing

Script Type : minuscule

Alternative Name : lettres de forme

Date : 15th century

Location : France and the Low Countries

Function : Book hand of formal grade

This is a section from a mid 15th century manuscript of the Conquêtes de Charlemagne (Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, MS 9066-68, Vol.1, f.138b). (From New Palaeographical Society 1904)
Pass cursor over letters to see examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This large and elegant script called bâtarde, or lettres de forme, is somewhat different to the English bastarda scripts, although deriving from a similar union of book hands and document hands. The letters are angular, and sometimes conjoined, as in Gothic textura, but the distinctive ascenders and descenders of f and the long form of s are curved and tapering. While it has some cursive qualities, as some letters appear to be joined, it is a formal and carefully written script. The short form of s is fully closed, as is found in French cursive scripts of this date. Although the letters are angular, there are no rows of minims, as some ends of letters end in a tapered point rather than with feet or an upward kink, so that the letters m, n, i and u are easily distinguished.

As usual, there is no distinction between u and v. There are two forms of r, including the simplified form found after vowels, but here the two forms are used together when the letter is doubled in a word, as in guerre or courreurs.

There are no examples of j, k or w in this sample.

It might be noted that French still does not employ accents on letters at this date.

This style of writing was used for some early printed books. Pass the cursor slowly along the first few lines for a taste, and to investigate further, proceed to the paleography exercises.

Script Index

Paleography 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.