Medieval Writing
Paleography Exercises
Petition and endorsement of 1445 (London, National Archives E.28/74/52). All photographs by permission of the National Archives.
This document is a petition in the English language to the king from Katerine de le Pole, abbess of Barking in London, and the prioress and convent of the same, requesting the grant of two tuns of wine annually in perpetuity. The endorsement by a royal official at the foot of the document indicates that a grant of one tun annually was made in perpetuity, and another tun to the abbess for her lifetime only. Perhaps they thought the next abbess might be a little more abstemious. A tun was a very large barrel. They had their needs for communion wine for the mass, of course, but the abbess probably also had to do her share of entertaining important guests. The de la Pole family were merchants from Hull who got rich, made good, and climbed right up the social tree.

The document, with its very specific request for the procedures to be taken, indicates how such things were done. It requests letters patent with a writ of liberate. Letters patent were formal proclamations delivered open and a writ of liberate was a letter authorising spending from the Exchequer. This petition would have initiated a trail of communication which passed from the office of the signet to the office of the privy seal, to the office of the great seal, and thence, by letters patent to the Exchequer. With a bit of luck, a copy of the letters patent may be entered on the Liberate Rolls. It seems that the bureaucratic process was as tortuous for a barrel of wine as it was for funding a war in France.

This exercise was originally produced from an old Public Record Office photocopy. I have replaced it with a photograph from the splendid online service of the National Archives for a better idea of what it actually looks like, but apologies for the fact that the interactive exercises are still in the old format. They may be replaced in a decade or so, when I run out of new material to put on the site.

| overview | text | alphabet 1 | alphabet 2 | abbreviations | structure | exercises |

| transcript | modern paraphrase |

Click on each of the above to walk your way through the text. The transcript will appear in a separate window so that you can use it for reference at any time. These exercises are designed to guide you through the text, not test you, so you can cheat as much as you like.
Script sample for main text
Script sample for endorsement
Index of Exercises
Index of Scripts

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 20/3/2007.