Medieval Writing
The History of q (2)

In the document hands and later cursive book hands, q can be a bit more variable, usually in relation to the treatment of the descender. Although many examples resemble a g, that letter is usually rendered with a more extravagantly curling descender. The letter q is comon in Latin and romance languages, pretty much unknown in Germanic languages and rare in medieval English, so its actual occurrence in vernacular texts is variable.

protogothic q In this formal protogothic example of a document hand from the 12th century, q has the descender curving broadly to the left.
protogothic q In a less formally scribed writ of the reign of Henry II, the letter q is essentially similar to the above.
calligraphic q A calligraphic charter of the 13th century has put a flat top on the letter q, as well as a long descender curving to the left.
cursiva anglicana q In this example of cursiva anglicana, which first appeared in the 13th century, q has a straight descender.
charter q In this formal ecclesiastical charter of the 13th century, the letter q has a tightly curled descender.
chancery q In this example of the formal English chancery hand of the 13th century, based on cursiva anglicana, q has a simple, straight descender.
chancery q This example of q from an early 13th century writ is very similar to the above.
French cursive q This 14th century example of q from a French cursive document hand has a descender that kinks to the left in a narrow point.
English cursive q This example of q from an English 15th century charter has been formed in a cursive manner, with the oblique narrow closing line of the upper loop formed from a separate pen stroke.
English cursive q In another 15th century charter, q is of similar construction.
batarde q This example of q from a formal and mannered version of French bâtarde script has the shorter descender, as found in formal Gothic textura book hands, but the bottom finishes in a narrow point.
cursive q This very angular q with a curved descender comes from a late 15th or early 16th century French cursive book hand. The top is not so much a loop as two intersecting angled strokes, while the descender curves to the left.
late chancery q In the later English chancery hand, as shown here from an Elizabethan document of conservative penmanship and formal quality, q has an open top, and a big looping descender.
cursive q In this genealogical document of late 15th or early 16th century, q is formed in a cursive manner, from a single stroke of the pen, with a straight, sloping descender.
cursive q In this endorsement on a mid 15th century petition to the English chancery, the q also has a long backsloping descender.

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

humanistic display q In this example from a 15th century Italian book hand, q is very neat and rounded, with a tiny kink at the bottom of the descender.
humanistic q This 16th century example dates from after the advent of printing and has produced a neat q with a serifed foot.
The letter q has essentially the same form through the middle ages, although the method of producing that general shape is variable. It often looks, to our eyes, as if the descender is curling the wrong way. As with many other letters, the variations in form do not fall into a chronological sequence. When confronted with an unknown script, the first trick is to find a g to compare q with so that you know which is which, and an aid to this is to identify which of them is paired with a u.
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 20/9/2006.