Medieval Writing
15th Century English Chancery Hand

Script Type : minuscule

Script Family : Gothic bastarda

Date : 15th century

Location : England

Function : Document hand or charter hand

This is the top of a 15th century recipe for ink from the Chancery Miscellaea (London, National Archives C.47/34/1/3). By permission of the National Archives.
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This interesting oddment comes from the English chancery and is a recipe for iron gall ink, so this is one for the modern scribes out there. The script is a fairly standard 15th century chancery hand of the bastarda type, as was used in legal documents such as charters, although this example appears to have been rather more hastily written. It is in English.

Among the diagnostic letters, a has the closed double loop, and g is also tightly looped and closed. The letter e is mostly what we regard as standard, except that occasionally it does the trick of rolling over backwards. Both the tall and short forms of s are present, with the short form as an open curly shape. There are also two forms of r, one of standard Gothic type and the other a simplified. open form wich extends below the baseline, typical of the English chancery style.

The letters found in English but not in Latin. w and k, are extravagantly formed with many loops. I think the scribes liked to celebrate these. The text also contains the thorn character for th and the yogh for consonantal y. The thorn character resembles a y without the backward curving curly descender. The yogh looks like a long z with a curly desender.

In general ascenders tend to form angular loops . The tendency for letters to be angular causes the usual problems in distinguishing the letters made from minims; i, m, n, u, and v. In relation to this, i is not dotted except when two or three appear together, as in Roman numerals.

There are no examples of j (unless you count the elongated i at the end of numerals), x or z in this example.

Pass the cursor slowly down the rows of text shown for a quick transcript. To examine the whole document, and perhaps cook up your own batch of medieval ink, proceed to the paleography exercise.

Script Index

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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 30/9/2008.