Medieval Writing
The History of n (2)

In the document hands and later cursive book hands, the problem of extracting n from a confusion of minims gets worse, and there can be even greater confusion between n and u or v, as both letters can sometimes be written as broad, angular squiggles without any indication as to whether they are meant to be joined across the bottom or the top. It may be a case of identifying a word and working backwards, but with vernacular writings with their wayward spelling, even this can be disputed. In this household we have had the great grannte/graunte controversy, which was ultimately declared a draw.

grannte or graunte This is an example of the word in question. In modern English spelling the word is grant, but in the 15th century English chancery hand in which it is written, it could be graunte or grannte. In this situation, I guess you just have to be consistent. Paleography is not rocket science, it is an art.

protogothic n In this formal protogothic example of a document hand from the 12th century, n is neat, wide and rounded, even though many other letters in this script are spiky and angular.
protogothic n In a less formally scribed writ of the reign of Henry II, the letter n is formed from two identical spiky minims.
calligraphic n A calligraphic charter of the 13th century displays a rounded n with little feet.
cursiva anglicana n In this example of cursiva anglicana, which first appeared in the 13th century, n is written in very cursive and angular style.
charter n In this formal ecclesiastical charter of the 13th century, the letter n is made from two angular minims.
chancery n In this example of the formal English chancery hand of the 13th century, based on cursiva anglicana, n is more formal and rounded.
chancery n This example of n from an early 13th century writ is somewhat angular, but clearly connected at the top.
French cursive n This 14th century example of n from a French cursive document hand consists of a rounded wiggle.
cursive book hand n In this early 14th century cursive English book hand the n is of the more formal rounded variety, with feet.
cursive charter n This example of n from an English 15th century charter is just a cursive wiggly line.
cursive charter n In another 15th century charter, n is fully cursive, open and angular.
batarde n This example of n 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 n In the later English chancery hand, as shown here from an Elizabethan document of conservative penmanship and formal quality, n is neat and rounded and carefully formed.
cursive n In this genealogical document of late 15th or early 16th century, n has the open, spiky, cursive shape.
cursive n In this endorsement on a mid 15th century petition to the English chancery, n is an open, spiky wiggle.

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

humanistic minuscule n In this example from a 15th century Italian book hand, n is neat, rounded and broad, without feet.
humanistic minuscule n This 16th century example dates from after the advent of printing and has little blocky feet.
While the essential underlying shape of n does not change too much over the centuries, there can be problems with identifying it in cursive scripts where the letters are very informally written.
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 31/8/2006.