Medieval Writing
The History of h (2)

In the document hands and later cursive book hands, h gets a range of treatments involving elaborations to the basic letter. As with g, some of the more rapidly written cursive hands compensate for speedy penmanship with large curly calligraphic flourishes which may extend curls and loops below the baseline.

protogotic h In this formal protogothic example from the 12th century, vertical is adorned with a narrow sloping head and foot, while the angular curve extends right down under the letter.
protogothic h In a less formally scribed writ of the reign of Henry II, the treatment is much simpler.
calligraphic h A calligraphic charter of the 13th century displays a Gothic h with a taller ascender than is normaly found in a book hand.
cursiva anglicana h In this example of cursiva anglicana, which first appeared in the 13th century, the curl at the end of the loop extends right around the letter and up the back of the ascender.
charter hand h In this formal ecclesiastical charter of the 13th century, a loop has been added at an angle to the top of the ascender of h.
chancery h In the formal English chancery hand of the 13th century, based on cursiva anglicana, the ascender has been split into opposing curls, as if it is carrying a palm tree.
chancery h This example from an early 13th century writ is the simplest form of the letter.
cursive h This 14th century example from a French cursive document hand is produced in an entirely cursive manner, with a single curvy stroke of the pen, producing a very open form of the letter with a looped ascender.
cursive book hand h In this early 14th century cursive English book hand the h is closer in form to that of a Gothic textura book hand than to those of the other cursive hands shown here.
cursive charter h This example from an English 15th century charter is cursive and open, but with a flourishing extension below the letter.
charter h In another 15th century charter, the letter has an angled, rather than looped, ascender and extends only a short way below the baseline.
batarde h This version of French bâtarde script has a looped ascender, but the rest of the letter has formal and angular qualities.
late chancery h In the later English chancery hand, as shown here from an Elizabethan document of conservative penmanship and formal quality, h is made into a very large and imposing letter with loops above and below.
document hand h In this genealogical document of late 15th or early 16th century, h is more simply formed with a fat looping ascender.
cursive h In this endorsement on a mid 15th century petition to the English chancery, h appears in the open cursive form with a looped ascender, and appears to be falling over.
late cursive h In some cursive hands of the 16th century, such as this one, the letter h completely collapses, the ascender is reduced to a small loop, the curve of the letter disappears and a huge reverse curve flourish attempts to disguise the wreckage. After this stage, handwriting is not worth reading.

Humanistic book hands, as usual, reverted to the simple form derived from Caroline minuscule.

humanistic display h In this example from a 15th century Italian book hand, h is plain and neat, with the curve turning in abruptly.
late humanistic h This 16th century example dates from after the advent of printing and is equipped with little blocky serifs like a typeface.
The letter h is one that starts off fairly standardised, but becomes more varied in the cursive scripts. It is usually easy to pick out, so if you have a page that has nothing you can recognise, hunting for an h might give you a start. It makes you feel better if you can find something that you know.
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Histories of Individual Letters

History of Scripts
What is Paleography?

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