Medieval Writing
Bastarda Book Hand

Script Type : minuscule

Date : 15th century

Location : England

Function : Book hand , although similar scripts were also used as document hands.

This passage comes from a 15th century copy of Thomas Hoccleve's Regement of Princes, composed around 1412 (British Library, Harley 4866, f.88r). The passage refers to Chaucer, whose portrait accompanies it. Note that his finger points more or less to the words his lyknesse in the passage where the image is discussed. By permission of the British Library. These images are made available under a Creative Commons licence.
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This is a neat and formal hand and many of the letters closely resemble those of a formal Gothic book hand. The letter d has a looped ascender and k has the fancy elaborations found in the chancery hand of the period. The letters b and l also have a loopy appearance. The letter a may appear with or without a fully looped ascender.

As is normal in Gothic scripts, there are two forms of r and two forms of s, the tall and the short and curly. The letter w is elaborate and curly, as is usual, almost as if getting to write w in an English text required a bit of a celebration. The special letter for th, known as a thorn, somewhat resembles a y, but without the curled descender.

The letters u and v are identical.

There are no examples of j, x or z visible in this section of text.

There are a few abbreviations present in the text.

While the letters are clear, the spelling is rather different to what we are used to and there are some antiquated words. For example, while the author asserts Chaucer's life was queyut, he is not suggesting that he had no excitement. It means his life was quit, finished or extinct. He was dead. By the way, if it should occur to you that this seems like rather bad poetry, you would not be alone in this opinion.

Pass the cursor slowly over the text to unravel it. To examine the page in more detail, proceed to the paleography exercises.

This work has been presented as a full digital facsimile by the British Library here.

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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 26/7/2014.