Medieval Writing
Cursive Business or Personal Hand

Script Type : minuscule cursive

Date : mid 16th century

Location : England

Function : document hand or business and personal hand

This is a segment from a page of the minute book of the York Corporation of 1543-1544 (York City Archives B.16, f.19). Photograph by permission of the York City Archives.
Pass cursor over letters to see examples taken from the section illustrated above.

Distinctive letters: This example shows an ordinary cursive 16th century business hand written in English, formal enough for use for an official purpose, but nonetheless used in a document rapidly written which retains deletions and corrections. The hand is fully cursive and therefore able to be written at speed.

By this date, English cursive writing has lost some of the distinctive letter forms that are ascribed to the script called cursiva anglicana. The letter a is simple with only a single closed section, while g looks a bit like a y with a cross through it. The letter r is the simplified Gothic form, looking rather like a z.

Ascenders and descenders are generally loopy, and the hasty nature of the script means that b and d have a tendency to be open in the bottom loop.

The letter e is variable, sometimes having the form where it seems to have rolled over on its back. At other times it descends into an informal squiggle. The letter h has a loopy descender and appears to be falling off the line, as is common in cursive scripts of this date. Even the letter k has a curvy shape. The letter x is written as a curly closed loop made from a single penstroke. The letter w has evolved into a simplified curvy form, without the curly elaborations of earlier scripts. The letter y has a curly descender which, to our eyes, curls the wrong way.

The letter c retains a flat topped shape, while t is short, so these can sometimes be confused.

Both f and long s are especially long and curvy, while s when it appears at the end of a word has evolved from the short and curly form to a simplified upward curly flourish.

As with so many later cursive scripts, the letters made of minims can be difficult to resolve and n and u are virtually indistinguishable. See the word Counsell in the first line. When this is combined with the erratic spelling of the 16th century, it can sometimes be hard to decide which it is meant to be. The letter v is angular, with a flourish, at least where it appears at the beginning of a word.

The combination th has been written out in full in this instance, rather than using y.

There are no examples of j, q or z in this sample.

Pass the cursor slowly over the text segment for a transcript. Further details can be examined in the paleography exercise.

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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 18/3/2008.