Medieval Writing
The History of f (2)

The main changes to f as document hands developed their own cursive styles were in the treatment of the ascender, sometimes with an open loop and sometimes closed. The long descenders which tended to disappear in Caroline minuscule and the formal Gothic scripts reappeared in the document hands. Although when the letters are carefully isolated out as here, the crossbar distinguishes f from long s, the distinction may be a little harder to make out when the letter is embedded in a word. In some 14th and 15th century cursive hands, a capital F is made by doubling the minuscule letter, as ff.

protogothic f In this formal protogothic example from the 12th century, the simple f has a fine hairline foot.
protogothic f In a less formally scribed writ of the reign of Henry II, the form is much the same but the execution is more casual.
Gothic f A calligraphic charter of the 13th century displays a double curved ascender and little blocky ends to the lines.
cursiva anglicana f This example of cursiva anglicana, which first appeared in the 13th century, shows the simple long form of the letter.
charter f In this formal ecclesiastical charter of the 13th century, the ascender is split at the top, as occurs in many tall letters in this style of script.
chancery f In the formal English chancery hand of the 13th century, based on cursiva anglicana, the simple split top is exaggerated into a closed loop.
cursive f This example from an early 13th century writ reverts to the simple form.
French cursive f This 14th century example from a French cursive document hand is awkward and angular, apparently formed from a straight vertical with a curving top cutting through it. This is a rather untidy hand.
cursiva anglicana f In this early 14th century cursive English book hand the ascender is not split, but it is thickened at the top, while the descender is very straight.
cursive f This example from an English 15th century charter shows the simple form with a slightly curved descender.
cursive f In another 15th century charter, f has a completely closed upper loop.
batarde f This very formal version of French bâtarde script has a very straight sloping and angular f with a characteristic bulging in the middle of the vertical.
later chancery f In the later English chancery hand, as shown here from an Elizabethan document of conservative penmanship and formal quality, the f has a closed loop at the top and a very long descender.
late cursive f In this genealogical document of late 15th or early 16th century, the f is produced in an extremely cursive manner, with the upper loop continuous with the crossbar.
cursive f This endorsement on a mid 15th century petition to the English chancery uses a simple form with closed loop.

Humanistic book hands, as usual, reverted to the simple form derived from Caroline minuscule.

humanistic display f This very plain example is from a 15th century Italian book hand.
late humanistic f This 16th century example dates from after the advent of printing, and is equipped with neat little serifs, like a printing typeface.
The variants on the letter f are perhaps more related to stylistic treatment rather than differences in the fundamental form, and it is not a letter which usually poses much difficulty in recognition, except sometimes in the differentiation from s.
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Histories of Individual Letters

History of Scripts
What is Paleography?

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