Medieval Writing
Protogothic Document Hand

Script Type : minuscule

Alternative Name : transitional Gothic document hand

Date : 12th century

Location : England

Function : Document hand or charter hand

This sample comes from a charter of the latter part of the 12th century (British Library, add. chart. 47424), in which a nobleman, Gervaise Payne, gives a mill to the nuns of Etonia, or Nuneaton, of the order of Fontevrault. By permission of the British Library.
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : Document hands of the 12th century were somewhat varied as the standardisation of Caroline minuscule gave way to experiments with the more angular forms which came to be called Gothic. This example is of a rather spiky variant and some letters, such as p and h, have extravagant angles. The letter forms are not entirely uniform and great effort went into choosing the exemplars shown here.

The trick letters are a and q. The letter a has a lavish curl at the top, making it look a bit like a d. However, that has a rather different form. The descender of q curls to the left, making ot look like a g. However, g has a much more extravagant shape.

As with Caroline minuscule from which it derives, there are two forms of r, one a very simplified form. The letter s is usually tall although the short and curly form is present and t is short.

There are some variants which look like capitalised forms, although they are not enlarged. For example

this form of m and this form of U with a looping descender.

As is not uncommon in Gothic scripts, the second i of a double i can be extended down, as in the following word

pertinentiis (abbreviated).

As usual, there is no k, y, z or j, but the letter w appears. It is not found in Latin, but it occurs here in English names in the list of witnesses to the document.

The text is heavily abbreviated, and part of the trick of reading it is that it follows a fairly standard charter formula, or diplomatic. That is to say, you have a pretty fair idea of what most of it is about before you get into the niceties of reading every letter. Run the cursor slowly over the first few lines of text to get the general idea. For a more detailed examination of the document, proceed to the paleography exercises.

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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 16/1/2012.