Medieval Writing
Late Gothic Bastarda Book Hand

Script Type : minuscule

Script Family : bastarda

Date : 15th century

Location : England

Function : Book hand , although used as a document hand in this case.

Section of an abstract of agreement between Henry VII and the abbot and convent of Westminster, of 1500 (British Library, Harley 1498, f.76), by permission of the British Library.
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This script might be referred to as a bastarda, that being a broad generic terms for late medieval hands with qualities derived from both Gothic textura and cursive hands. This particular example is quite formal and precise, and although the letters sometimes touch within the words, it is not cursive as each is written separately. It looks like a book hand, although in this instance it is used on a very formal and elaborate document.

While most letter forms are essentially those of Gothic textura, the curly d derives from cursive script. There are two forms of s, the tall and the short and curly, and two forms of r, one being the simplified form found after vowels. As this is an English language text, the letters k, w and y are present, with the letter w particularly having a lavish and extravagant curly form. I am beginning to think there is a whole thesis to be written on the symbolism of the letter w in English! Note that th is written in the modern manner, rather than employing a special medieval character.

The letters n, u and v are indistinguishable, leading to possible discrepancies in the spelling of certain words. The construction of these letters using rows of minims echoes their form in textura, but there are no conjoined letters.

There are no examples of the letters q or z or minuscule j.

Pass the cursor slowly over the text to unravel it. For a more detailed examination of the document, proceed to the paleography exercise.

Some images and information about this document can be found on the British Library Medieval Manuscripts blog under the heading Quadripartite Indenture. You get to see it in living colour in its original chemise binding. A second copy of the indenture is to be found in the National Archives in London (E33/1).
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 3/3/2012.