Medieval Writing
13th Century English Chancery Hand from Germany

Script Type : minuscule

Script Family : cursiva anglicana

Date : mid 13th century

Location : From Germany, probably by an English scribe

Function : Document hand or charter hand

This is the upper left corner of a charter granted to Hugh le Despenser by Richard, King of the Romans, in 1257 (British Library, add. charter 1051). (From The New Palaeographical Society 1908, Plate 150)
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This example was chosen because it is a fine example of a formal English chancery cursive of the mid 13th century, but also because it demonstrates how strict national labelling of scripts does not really apply in the social and political environment of the middle ages. Richard, earl of Cornwall was the brother of the English king Henry III, and was elected king of the Romans in 1257. For further information on how this came to pass, consult your history books. This charter was issued in Cologne, Germany, but was perhaps written by the king's own notary and scribe, who is listed among the witnesses.

The letters have distinguishing characteristics of English cursiva anglicana, of a very formal and stylised type suitable to the document, but somehow also have a neat rounded Germanic look, which cannot be defined by any specific characteristic. It is a script of the international elite.

The anglicana characteristics include the a with double closed loops, although the occasional simple single closed loop a appears in places. The letter r sometimes extends below the baseline, although there are examples of the small Caroline minuscule r. The letter g is small and curly with a closed loop descender. The short s which appears as a final letter has an open upper loop and a closed lower loop.

The letter d has a characteristically extravagant loopy ascender, while the ascenders of letters such as b, f, l, h and long s are often split; a characteristic of formal English chancery documents of this period.

The letter w appears here only at the beginning of English names, but the large and wildly loopy form also appears in the middle of words at this time. The letter k also appears in English place names in a curly form. The letter y is curly and dotted.

The letters i and j are not distinguished, and neither are u and v, although v assumes an angular, loopy form when it appears at the beginning of a word.

There are no examples of z.

Pass the cursor slowly over the segment illustrated to pick out some words. As this sample does not extend across the full width of the document, the text is not continuous. A paleography exercise will be forthcoming so that you can look at the whole thing in more detail.

Script Index

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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 4/3/2012.