Medieval Writing
Cursive Document Hand

Script Type : minuscule cursive

Date : 14th century

Location : France

Function : document hand

This shows the upper left hand corner of a document of 1385 in the French language, in which a French esquire acknowledges payment from the paymaster of the king's wars for defence of a castle in Picardy, from the private collection of Rob Schäfer. (Photograph © Rob Schäfer.)
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This Gothic cursive document hand is very similar to the previous example, being a somewhat untidy working script rather than the elegant product of a chancery. We might call it a French working cursive of the Hundred Years War. (Or is that gothica cursiva franconia militaria ordinaria? No, don't write that down, just joking!)

All ascenders and descenders tend to be long, loopy and somewhat angular. The most distinctive letter is g, which looks like a y with a horizontal slash through the top. On the other hand, q is loopy and looks like a g. The letter j is differentiated from i and is very tall and extravagant. Both tall and short forms of s are present.

The letters n, u and v are virtually identical, and along with i and m, can form rows of minims that are difficult to decipher.

There are no examples of k or w.

The spelling differs considerably from modern French, and this is made trickier by the fact that there are no accents or apostrophes.

The sample is just from the top left of the document, so it is not continuous text. Pass the cursor along the lines of text slowly to identify some words. To look at the document in greater detail, go 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 19/5/2005.