Medieval Writing
Paleography Exercises
Recipe for Ink, 15th century English London, National Archives (C.47/34/1/3) , by permission of the National Archives.
This scruffy little English language document is interesting for a number of reasons. It is a recipe for making iron gall ink, or hynke as they spell it here. It is in a collection in the National Archives in London known as the Chancery Miscellanea, which basically consists of all kinds of oddments that didn't fit into any other categories when they tidied up the records in the 19th century. There are some fascinating things in that collection, and it is not at all clear why some of them were in the chancery at all; manuscripts of poetry for example. Still, in the days before YouTube and Facebook, maybe reading poetry was how public servants whiled away the quieter moments. This piece, however, does relate to genuine chancery business, the art of writing. The script is a standard chancery hand of the bastarda type, typical of the 15th century. It is rather untidy compared to what was produced in formal documents, and contains corrections and numerous abbreviations. It is a little difficult to read from the photograph, but I suspect that is because the original is probably a rather grubby and battered little item.

I know you are not supposed to indulge in speculation about historical material, but I have an image of an apprentice chancery clerk just dying to make his mark on the affairs of government, and being sent off by his senior with some scribblings on a leftover scrap of parchment to make hynke instead. Maybe it was the equivalent of the modern office junior being sent to do the photocopying. It is reasonable to assume that this was the official chancery method of making ink. The imposing image of a crown with the words Tower of London is an official stamp from the old Public Record Office days.

This item is featured on the National Archives website as one their Treasures.

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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 this example
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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 26/8/2008.