Medieval Writing
The History of m (2)

In the document hands and later cursive book hands, the problem of extracting m from a confusion of minims gets worse, as not only is it hard to tell whether the minims are connected at the top or bottom, it can be difficult to work out where letters begin and end. Minims may be variable in size, and in some cases scribes seem to have employed a certain amount of sharthand, especially with word endings. The letter m may also receive a bit of calligraphic flourish when it appears at the beginning or the end of a word, and in the latter case this may or may not indicate abbreviation. Add to this the issue that common small letters like e sometimes degenerate into wiggles, and you can find yourself working through a range of possibilities for any single word.

protogothic m In this formal protogothic example of a document hand from the 12th century, m is neat, wide and rounded, even though many other letters in this script are spiky and angular.
protogothic m In a less formally scribed writ of the reign of Henry II, the letter m is also wide and rounded, with a little curl on the end.
calligraphic m A calligraphic charter of the 13th century displays a rounded m with little feet.
cursiva anglicana m In this example of cursiva anglicana, which first appeared in the 13th century, m is written in very cursive style, as a single wiggly line, producing an open angular form.
charter m In this formal ecclesiastical charter of the 13th century, the letter m nevertheless also has the open cursive form.
chancery m In this example of the formal English chancery hand of the 13th century, based on cursiva anglicana, m is more formal and rounded with little feet.
chancery m This example of m from an early 13th century writ has the open, spiky, cursive form.
French cursive m This 14th century example of m from a French cursive document hand is rounded, but simply treated.
cursive book hand m In this early 14th century cursive English book hand the m is of the more formal rounded variety, with feet.
cursive charter m This example of m from an English 15th century charter is just an open cursive wiggly line.
cursive charter m Much the same applies in another 15th century charter.
batarde m This example of m from a formal and mannered version of French bâtarde script has carefully distinguished thin and thick strokes, but narrow pointed ends to the legs and no feet.
late chancery m In the later English chancery hand, as shown here from an Elizabethan document of conservative penmanship and formal quality, m is neat and rounded and carefully formed.
cursive m In this genealogical document of late 15th or early 16th century, m has the open, spiky, cursive shape.
cursive m In this endorsement on a mid 15th century petition to the English chancery, m is a wiggle preceded by a flourish.

Humanistic book hands, as usual, reverted to the neat, rounded, carefully written form derived from Caroline minuscule.

humanistic display m In this example from a 15th century Italian book hand, m is neat, rounded and broad, without feet.
late humanisitc m This 16th century example dates from after the advent of printing and has little blocky feet.
While there are variations on the way m is written, it seems that the changes are rung on them in different scripts and hands, rather than m being a letter which is diagnostic of a particular script style. Many of the problems of identifying m in the wild are a consequence, not of the form of the letter itself, but of the friends it hangs out with.
previous page
Histories of Individual Letters

History of Scripts
What is Paleography?

If you are looking at this page without frames, there is more information about medieval writing to be found by going to the home page (framed) or the site map (no frames).
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 24/8/2006.