Medieval Writing
Ecclesiastical Document Hand  

Script Type : minuscule

Script Family : Gothic

Date : 13th century

Location : England

Function : Document hand

This is the top left hand corner of a document in which the prior and convent of Holy Trinity Priory, York appeal to the Holy See against the archbishop of York, concerning the appointment of a priest to a parish church which they regarded as in their possession, dated 1281. 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 document was produced by a notary, a process more unusual in England than on the continent and largely confined to matters of papal business. The script is of the Gothic family, but with its neat, widely spaced letters, shows more similarity to the preceding Caroline minuscule than book hands of the day. There are no indecipherable rows of minims, as the letters m, n, i, u and v are clearly separated.

From the Gothic there are the d with backsloping ascender, the use of the short and curly from of s in some cases, and the appearance of the simplified form of r, generally after vowels.

The long s and the letter f have split ascenders, a characteristic of English chancery scripts of the time. The r which drops below the line has similar affinities, so that the script becomes a kind of papal minuscule with a few English quirks.

The letters u and v are mostly identical, except where v occurs at the beginning of a word. The letters i and j are also identical.

The letter k appears in a place name and w appears at the beginning of a name as a capital, but generally the minuscule form of w is the same. Here it consists of two interlocked vs, rather than the more spaghetti-like confection of many English scripts.

There are no examples of y or z.

The script has inherited from Caroline minuscule the use of the ligature st, a trick which became highly exaggerated in formal ecclesiastical documents.

The segment above is not continuous text, but pass the cursor slowly across it to pick up some words and phrases. To find out what it is actually all about, 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 3/3/2012.