The history of the Cursive Writing of Western Europe in the middle ages covers as wide a field as that of the literary hand. Practically, however, a full knowledge of the peculiarities of the different official hands of Europe is not so necessary and is not so easily attainable as that of the various kinds of literary MSS. Each country has naturally guarded its official deeds with more or less jealousy, and such documents have therefore been less scattered than the contents of ordinary libraries. While, then, the student will find it of chief advantage to be familiar with the history of the book-hands of all countries—as in his researches, which, in most instances, will be connected with literary matters, his labours will lie among MS. books—he will be generally content with a slighter acquaintance with the official handwritings of foreign countries, for the study of which the available material is limited. An intimate knowledge, however, of the official and legal hands of his own country is as necessary to him as the knowledge of the literary hands, if he wishes to be in a position to make use of the vast mass of historical information to be extracted from the official and private records which lie ready to hand in the national repositories.
In this chapter, then, it is not practically necessary to examine the several forms of the cursive handwritings of the continent, but we propose to deal more largely with the official and legal hands of our own country.
In following the history of Roman cursive writing and of the national hands which sprang therefrom we traced the rise of the cursive writing of Western Europe in its three distinct forms of Lombardic, Visigothic, and Merovingian. We do not propose to follow the later cursive developments of these different forms ; but there are two great series of official documents which, on account of their extent and political importance, it is necessary to examine a little more closely in regard to the styles of writing which were employed in their production. These are the documents which issued from the Papal Chancery and from the Imperial Chancery of the middle ages.
In the Papal Chancery a form of writing was developed which, from its likeness, in some respects, to the Lombardic cursive, has been named Littera Beneventana. It was, of course, derived from the Roman chancery hand, but took a different line from that followed by the writing found in the cursive documents of Ravenna. The peculiar letters which belong to it are the a made almost like a Greek ω, the t in form of a loop, and the e in that of a circle with a knot at the top. These letters also take other forms when linked with other letters. Specimens of it are in existence dating from the end of the eighth century ; and facsimiles are to be found in various palœographical collections, and especially in the great work of Pflück-Harttung, Specimina selecta chartarum pontificum Romanorum, 1885-1887. The following facsimile is taken from a bull of Pope John VIII., of the year 876, written on a very large scale, which is here greatly reduced (Pf.-Hart., tab. 5). The artificial nature of the writing can be detected in the construction of some of the letters. For example, tall strokes are not necessarily made by one sweep of the pen: it will be seen that that of the second d in the first line is distinctly formed in three pieces, the two upper ones being evidently added to the lowest one.
|Bull of John VIII.—A.D. 876.|
|Quando ad ea quae ca[tholicorum]— | bus sunt monitis pro vocan[da] | —ente gratiam succenduntur— [ et leto sunt animo conced[enda—|
This hand continued to be practised down to the beginning of the twelfth Century, becoming in its later stages peculiarly angular and difficult to read. We give a facsimile of this late style from a bull of Urban 11., of the year 1098 (Pf.-Hart., tab. 47).
|Bull of Urban II.—A.D. 1098.|
|[emenda] verit . potestatis honorisque sui dignita[te]— | corpore ac sanguine dei et domini redemptoris— | eidem loco iusta servantibus sit pax— | premia eternę pacis inveniant|
The peculiar forms which the long r and the t and other letters assume in combination will be specially noticed.
This kind of writing, however, did not remain supreme throughout the period of its existence noted above. In the course of the eleventh Century the writing of the Imperial Chancery became the ordinary hand for papal documents also. This hand was at that period, as we shall presently see, the ordinary minuscule, derived from the Caroline minuscule, mixed, however, for some time with older forms. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and subsequently during the later middle ages, ihe papal hand follows the general lines of the development of the established minuscule, cast, it must be remembered, in the mould of the symmetrical Italian style.
A very peculiar and intricate style adopted at a late period for papal documents may here be just mentioned. This is the so-called Littera Sancti Petri or Scrittura bollatica, a character which appears to have been invented for the purpose of baffling the uninitiated. It first appeared in the reign of Clement VIII., A.D. 1592—1605, and was only abolished in our own time, in 1879.
As the special form of writing developed in the Papal Chancery is to be traced back to the Roman cursive as practised in Italy, so the writing of the Imperial Chancery is derived from the same cursive, as practised in France and represented by the facsimile of the Merovingian hand of the year 695 given above (p. 227).
Facsimiles of the early Imperial Chancery writing are to be found scattered in various works ; but a complete course may be best studied in Letronne's Diplomata, in Sickel's Schrifttafeln aus dem Nachlasse von U. F. von Kopp (1870), and especially in the recent work of Von Sybel and Sickel, Kaiserurkunden in Abbildungen (1880, etc.). In the earliest documents, commencing in the seventh, century and continuing to the middle of the eighth century, the character is large, and in the earlier part of this period is not so intricate as afterwards. The writing then grows into a more regular form. The following specimen represents the style of the close of the eighth century, as found in a document of Charlemagne of the year 797 (Facs. Ecole clés Chartes).
|Deed of Charlemagne.—A.D. 797.|
|adscribitur quod pro contemplatione servitii | [fil]ius noster cum aliquibus dei infidelibus ac nostris | —ex ipsis in nostra praesentia convicti et secundum | —eui et nos omnes res pro prietatis suae iuxta eius|
In the ninth century a small hand of increasing regularity and gradually falling into the lines of the Caroline minuscule is established; but while the influence of the reformed hand is quite evident, old forms of letters are retained for some time, as might be expected in a style of writing which would, in the nature of things, cling to old traditions more closely than would that of the literary schools. And so it progresses, affected by the changes which are seen at work in the literary hands, but still continuing to maintain its own individuality as a cursive form of writing. As an illustration of a middle period, we select a few lines from a deed of the Emperor Henry I., written in the year 932 (Kaiserurkund., tab. 22).
|Deed of Emperor Henry.—A.D. 932.|
|potestatis esse videbatur . cum curtilibus . ecclesia— | in comitatibus meginuuarchi et sigifridi . loc[a]— | nuncupata . cum curtilibus . aecclesiis . cęteris|
In this writing of the Imperial Chancery, as indeed in all other cursive styles derived from the Roman cursive, the exaggeration of the heads and tails of letters is a marked feature. And this exaggeration continued inherent in this hand and was carried over into the national official hands of France and Germany and Italy, which are but later developments of it. In England we see the influence of the hand of the Imperial Chancery in the official hand which the Normans brought with them and established in the country.
Each of the nations, then, of Western Europe developed its own style of official and legal writing, and in each country that writing ran its own course, becoming in process of time more and more individualized and distinct in its national characteristics. But at the same time, as we have seen in the case of the literary hand, it was subject to the general law of change; in each country it passed through the periods of the large bold style of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the exact style of the thirteenth, the declining style of the fourteenth, and the angular style and decadence of the fifteenth century. With its later career we have not to do, except to note that certain forms of it still linger in law documents, as for example in the engrossing of modern English deeds ; and that every ordinary current hand of modern Europe might have been as directly descended from the old legal cursive hand as the modern German is. What saved Europe from this diversity of current handwriting was the welcome which was given to the beautiful Italian cursive hand of the Renaissance, a form of writing which stood in the same relation to the book-hand of the Renaissance as the modern printer's Italics (the name preserving the memory of their origin) do to his ordinary Roman type. As the Italian book-hand of the Renaissance was not infrequently adopted at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth centuries as a style of writing for the production of select MSS. in England and France and other countries beyond the borders of Italy, so the Italian cursive hand at once came into favour as an elegant and simple style for ordinary use. In the sixteenth century and even later an educated Englishman could write two styles of current writing, his own native hand lineally descended from the charter-hand, and the new Italian hand; just as a German scholar of the present day can write the native German and the Italian hands. And in concluding these remarks it is worth noting that the introduction and wide acceptance of the Italian hand has constituted a new starting-point for the history of modern cursive writing in Western Europe. As the Roman cursive was adopted and gradually became nationalized in different forms in different countries ; and, again, as the reformed minuscule writing of Charlemagne's reign was taken as a fresh basis, and in its turn gradually received the stamp of the several national characteristics of the countries where it was adopted ; so the Italian hand of the Renaissance has taken the impress of those same characteristics, and specimens are easily distingnished, whether written by an Englishman or a German, by a Frenchman or an Italian or a Spaniard, as the case may be.
As already stated, the handwriting employed in England for official and legal documents after the Norman Conquest was the foreign hand introduced by the conquerors, and generally of the cursive type. An exception might be found in the few charters issued by William the Conqueror in the language of the people, which presumably were written by English scribes and are in the native hand. But these documents are so few that they are hardly to be considered as affecting the principle of the introduction of a new order of things in the issue of official and legal instruments.
But while we find it convenient to treat the cursive or charter-hand as a separate branch of mediæval English writing apart from the literary or book-hand, it must not be forgotten that both are derived from the same stock, that each influences the other and occasionally crosses its path (we have already seen how often the cursive hand was employed in a more or less modified form for literary purposes), and that the same laws of progress and change act contemporaneously upon both the one and the other. We shall accordingly have to note the same course of development and decadence in the cursive hand as we have followed in the set literary hand.
The official hand of the first hundred years succeeding the Conquest does not very materially alter. In the few surviving charters of the early kings of the Norman line it appears in a rough and angular character with the exaggeration of long limbs which we have noticed in the earlier hands derived from the Roman cursive. In such documents as the Pipe Rolls the writing is more careful and formal ; in the great volume of Domesday, while it still retains the official cast, it has a good deal of the literary style of lettering, perhaps from the fact of the work being drawn up in form of a book. The character into which it soon settled for royal charters may be exemplified by the following specimen drawn from a grant of Henry II. to Bromfield Priory in the year 1155 (Pal. Soc. ii. pl. 41).
|Charter of Henry II.—A.D. 1155.|
|Comes Andegavie . Archiepiscopis Episcopis . Abbatabus . Comitibus I —suis totius Anglie ⸵ Salutem . Sciatis me pro | —dedisse . et Carta mea Confirmasse . Ecclesiam | —[per]tinentiis suis . Priori . et Monachis ibidem deo⸵|
In this class of deeds the profuse employment of large letters is very striking ; and it should be noticed that the long strokes are drawn out into fine hair-lines, and, as is seen in one or two instances in the facsimile, are occasionally provided with an ornamental spur near the top of the stem, which thus has the appearance of being cloven.
In the next example of the official hand, from the Charter of King John to the borough of Wilton, of the year 1204 (Pal. Soc. i. pl. 214), the writing is a little more regular and cloven stems are more frequent.
|Charter of King John.—A.D. 1204.|
|forisfacturam . sicut carte Regis . Henrici . proavi nostr[i]— testantur . Testibus . Gileberto filio Petri Comitis Essexie . Ricardo Co[mite]— | Nievilla . Roberto de veteri ponte Petro de Stoka— | Cicestrensis Electi . Apud Oxoniam . xxi . die Aprilis|
A style of the charter-hand very common at the end of the twelfth and beginning of the thirteenth Century— rather squarer in its forms of letters and less exaggerated than the official hand of the period—is shown in the following facsimile. It is taken from a deed of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, written at Ossington in Nottinghamshii׳e in the year 1206 (Pal. Soc. ii. pl. 117).
|Charter of the Hospitallers.—A.D. 1206.|
|Notum sit Omnibus presentibus et futuris Quod Ego frater Rober[tus]— | [Hospi]talis Ierosolymitani in Anglia de communi assensu et voluntate fratrum— | Carta confirmavimus Roberto filio Ivonis de Wicham et— | Croftum que fuerunt Ivonis patris eius in Wicham . et unam p[ortionam]— | super Benecroftewelle. et aliam portionem terre ad Wirmode— | Bosci ad frithwude . et unam Gairam terre super Hagenegate|
Except for its being rather looser in the formation of its letters and more subject to flourishes, there is no great difference between this writing and the ordinary book-hand of the period ; and it is to be observed that not infrequently the style of writing employed in monastic charters is rather of the literary than of the legal type, that is, it is more set than cursive.
This preference of the more exact style of writing is conspicuous in many of the charters of the thirteenth century—the period when, as we have seen above, a more minute character was practised, contrasting strongly with the bold writing of the preceding century. Under this restrictive influence, a highly decorative class of documents was produced, in which the scribe exercised with effect his powers of penmanship in fanciful ornamentation of the capitals and the stems of tall letters. A specimen of this style is given from a lease of land to Abingdon Abbey of the year 1230 (Pal. Soc. ii, pl. 99).
|Lease to Abingdon Abbey.—A.D. 1230.|
|[Estov]erium suum usque ad terminum dictorum decem annorum. Si vero dicta Iuliana infra dictos dec[em]— | et cum eorum pertinentiis usque ad terminum dictorum decem annorum tenebunt . faciendo inde tantum for[insecum]— | [con]ventionem firmiter et sine dolo esse tenendam ⸵ dictus Abbas et Conventus per manum Ro[geri] — | [maio]rem huius conventionis traditionis et dimissionis securitatem ⸵ presens scriptum in mo[dum]— | Hiis testibus Henrico de Tracy. Ricardo Decano de Dumbeltuna. Willelmo de Dic[lesduna]— | Elia de Dumbeltona Rogero Nepote. Thoma de Dreitona. Rogero Marescallo.)|
Nothing can be prettier, as specimens of calligraphy, than these delicately written charters of the thirteenth century, which, moreover, are scarcely ever broader than the hand, and in their little compass present so many pleasing varieties of the penman's handiwork.
But the true cursive hand was more generally employed in the majority of legal and official deeds of the period. In the course of the reign of Henry III., while the letters generally retain the stiffness characteristic of writing of the thirteenth century, a certain amount of looping of the tall stems is gradually established—an advance upon the earlier practice of notching or cleaving the tops, as noticed above. The following specimen is taken from a charter of Bitlesden Abbey, of the year 1251 (Pal. Soc. ii. pl. 118).
|Charter of Bitlesden Abbey.—A.D. 1251.|
|Walterus miseracione divina Norwicensis Ecclesie minister hum[ilis]— | —patris domini Iohannis Regis non viciatam non cancellatam nec in— | —Monachis et monasterio de Bittlesdena concessam in hac forma— | —[Com]itibus . Baronibus Iusticiariis . Vicecomitibus . omnibus amicis et fidelibus sui[s] — | —Ernoldus de Bosco fecit deo et monachis de ordine Cistercie[nsi]— | —[or]dinis Cisterciensis . et de tribus carucatis terre in syresham que vocatur|
At this period, under a more extended system of linking the letters together and the consequent establishment of a really current hand, many of the older forms of letters become modified. The looping of tall letters has already been referred to. The top stroke of the letter a is gradually more bent over, and already in several instances touches the lower bow and forms a closed loop ; i, m, n, and u, when two or more come together in a word, are composed of uniform strokes ; and, above all, the small round s becomes more frequent, and is finished off in a closed loop below. This form of the latter letter, as we shall see, afterwards became exaggerated, the loop growing to a disproportionate size.
The official hand of the reign of Edward I., as seen in his charters, is in a regular and rather broad style, showing a further development in the open order of the letters, and the tendency to roundness characteristic of the fourteenth century.
|Charter of Edward I.—A.D. 1303.|
|Aquitanie Omnibus ad quos presentes littere pervenerint | — [fi] delis nostri Henrici de Lacy Comitis Lincolnie concessimus | —[quant]um in nobis est dilectis nobis in Christo Abbati et Conven[tui] | —[eu]m pertinentiis in Mora que vocatur Inkelesmore continentem | —longitudine per medium More illius ab uno capite|
In the specimen here given from a charter of the year 1303 (Pal. Soc. i. pl. 254), a further development is to be noticed in the looped a and s referred to under the last facsimile. Here also is to be seen a new change in the formation of the tall letters : the spur or flourish on the left side at the top of the stem is in some instances dispensed with (e.g. in b in the second nobis and Abbati, in line 3), leaving the letter provided with a simple curve or loop on the right instead of a cloven top.
Further progress in these particulars is seen in the official hand of the period of Edward II., as exemplified by the following specimen from a writ of Privy Seal of the year 1310 (Facs. of National MSS., no. 27).
|Writ of Privy Seal.—A.D. 1310.|
|Edward par la grace de dieu / Roi Dengle[terre]— | mons[ire] Aymar de Valence Counte de Penbroke ⸵— | la ville seint Johan de Perche / et noz autres— | Escoce ⸵ nous ont fait saver que noz enemys— | iour en antre / Chasteux / villes / et terres|
But, on the other hand, an equal rate of development of the new forms is not to be found contemporaneously in all documents. Charters written in the king's courts would be the work of the more expert scribes trained in the newest style ; elsewhere the changes need not be so regular or so rapid. In a grant from the Bishop of Norwich to Flixton Priory, of the year 1321 (Pal. Soc. i. pl. 254), the old form of tall letters with cloven tops is still followed.
|Grant of the Bishop of Norwich.—A.D. 1321.|
|Iohannes permissione divina Norwycensis Episcopus / volu[ntate]— | —[Trin]itatis Norwycensis necnon de licencia speciali domini nostri— | —[c]arta nostra / confirmavimus /pro nobis et successoribus nost[ris]— | —[B]ungeye / ac Religiosis Mulieiibus // Emme Priorisse— | —iuxta Bungeye nostre Dyoceseos ⸵ que ad nos et Ep[iscopatum]— | —[eius]dem loci pertinebat temporibus preteritis . Habend[um]|
But there are late forms among the letters, which, besides the general character of the writing, mark the document as one of the fourteenth century.
The progress made in the latter part of the century is very marked. Towards its close the letters begin to take angular forms, without, however, all at once assurming the universal angularity which belongs to the fifteenth century. The foliowing is a specimen of a rather rough style of the period, from a licence granted by Croyland Abbey in the year 1392 (Pal. Soc. i. pl. 257).
|Deed of Croyland Abbey.—A.D. 1392.|
|[Conven]tus Omnibus ad quos presentes littere pervenerint | —et licenciam dedisse . pro nobis et successoribus | —[Willel]mo Spenser et lohanni Waldegrave de | —gardina . Sexaginta et unam acras tene | —[de]nariatam et unam oblatam redditus eum|
In this hand will be remarked the exaggerated loop of the round s, and the reversed or o-shaped e. The forms of these and of other letters may be compared with those of the facsimile of the set book-hand from the chronicle of 1388 (p. 278 above).
As a specimen of carefully written charter-hand of the last year of the fonrteenth century, we may select a few lines from an official document of Henry IV., of the year 1400 (Pal. Soc. ii. pl. 160).
|Letters of Henry IV.—A.D. 1400.|
|quod dominus Ricardus nuper Rex Anglie secundus post conquestum apud | —de sa grace especiale par assent et accord de toutz seignurs espiri[tuelx] | —[demur]antz en Irland qils reviendront en Engleterre illoeqes | —[niente]ontresteant lestatut ent fait lan du regne nostre dit seignur | —vestris in hac parte specialiter providere Suscepimus et ponimus | —[moran]do in proteccionem tuicionem et defensiones nostras speciales|
By this time the letters have become pointed and angular ; and through the course of the fifteenth century this is their general character, with an ever-increasing tendency to careless formation. The following is a specimen of an ordinary rough hand of the reign of Henry V., from an official deed relating to a pledge of crown plate, of the year 1415 (Pal. Soc. i. pl. 258).
|Pledge of Plate.—A.D. 1414.|
|Ceste endenture fait parentre Richard Cou[rtenay] — | Gardein de ses ioialx dune part et Robert— | present viage as parties doultre la meer— | par vertu et commaundement dez lettres pat[entes]— | signe par lez mains de Tresorer dengleterre— | poisant ensemble iij unces i quarterone pris del|
Although, however, the letters are roughly formed, there is still a certain simplicity in the general character of the writing, which later in the century gives place to more elaborate flourishes and to more fanciful shaping of the letters.
To illustrate the charter-hand of the middle and latter part of the century, we must be content to select the two following specimens, which may serve to give some indication of its later development ; but a really adequate idea of the changes effected in the course of the fiffceenth century can only be gained by examination of a series of documents.
The first is taken from a lease, in English, of the year 1457, written at Canterbury (Pal. Soc. i. pl. 260). The old tradition of dotting the y here shows itself in the careless little curved stroke which flies above the line and is quite separated from the letter to which it belongs. In the word Payinge in the second line this stroke might first sight be taken to mark the i.
|of annunciacioun of oure lady next comynge aftir— | and fully to be endid Payinge yerely the seid Ali[sandre]— | Successours in hand . halfe yere afore . that is to— | next suyinge xxiij. s. iiij d. by evene porciouns The— | and staves . and Seyleclothes duringe the seid terme— | as of yrounwerke Tymberwerke . and helyng of the|
The second, in a much more pointed hand, is from a charter of John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, to Notley Abbey, granted in 1485 (Pal. Soc. i. pl. 260).
|Grant to Notley Abbey.—A.D. 1485.|
|predictam . prefato Abbati et Conventui durante min[ori]— | nulla proficua terrarum nec maritagium eiusdem perceperunt— | dedi et concessi ac do et concedo prefato Petro Abb[ati] — | reddituum reversionum et serviciorum . ac aliorum possessionu[m]— | nuper de Stoke Lysle in Comitatu Oxoniensi . qui de me— | dicti Willelmi . et racione minoris etatis . Iohannis|
It is not the design of this work to pursue the history of Latin Palæography beyond the end of the fifteenth century ; and the examination of the literary hand was accordingly brought to a close when it had reached that limit. With regard, however, to the cursive form of writing which has just been passed in review and which was not superseded by tbe printing press, as was the case with the set literary style, it will not be out of place to lay before the reader a few specimens of later varieties, among which some were elaborated in certain of the law courts and became the styles peculiar to those courts.
The ordinary class of charter or cursive hand in the reign of Henry VIII. was a rather coarse development of the style of the fifteenth century. The following specimen, taken from an ordinary conveyance of the year 1530 (Brit. Mus., Add. Ch. 24,843), may suffice as an illustration.
|Sond ac Georgio Taylour omnia illa terras te[nementa]— | —[i]acentia et existentia in Wescote in parochia de Dorkyng — | — [conc]essione et feoffamento Roberti Borne de Dorky[ng] — | —Maydeman aliam vero medietatem inde nuper— | —[appar]entis ac filii et heredis Alicie nuper uxoris mee ia[m]— | — predicta terras et tenementa redditus et servicia cum suis pert[inentiis]|
In most of the English cursive handwriting of the first half of the sixteenth century a certain heaviness of style was the fashion ; but afterwards this gave place to a lighter and more elegant character, which was fully established by the reign of Elizabeth, and was most commonly used from that time onwards far into the seventeenth century, and then gradually toned down into a form modified by the Italian letters of the ordinary current hand of the day. The following specimen is taken from a deed of the year 1594 (Brit. Mus., Add. Ch. 24,798).
|To be holden of the Cheefe lorde or lordes— | Administratours and for every of them, Doth—· | att thensealinge and deliverye of these presentes is— | all and singuler thappurtenaunces in Fee simple w[ithout]— | and every parte thereof to the saide Thomas Tan[ner]— | att all convenient tyme or tymes within the—|
In this hand we have a good fluent style to which none of the cursive writing of previous centuries had attained in England. In fact the close of the sixteenth century may be referred to as the epoch of the rise of the modern current hand, as distinguished from the more slowly written and more disjointed cursive writing of the middle ages.
Lastly, in taking leave of this ordinary style, we select a specimen of a form which it assumed early in the seventeenth century, from a deed of the year 1612 (Brit. Mus., Add. Ch. 24,000).
|powndes of good and lawfull mony— | himselfe fully satisfied, And therof— | And in consideracion of twoe hun[dred] — | confirmed, and by thease presentes d[oth]— | [A]ll that the Mannor of Butlers s[cituate]— [ [M]esuage or Mannor howse of Butle[rs]|
Now to turn to the peculiar official legal hands referred to above. From the earliest times succeeding the Norman Conquest there were, as we have seen, certain styles followed, though not uniformly, for particular official documents ; and a series of examples of these during the several reigns may be found in the public records. But it was not until the sixteenth century that a perfected system of particular styles for certain courts was finally established.
Without regarding the class to which has been given the name of " secretary,"and which is in fact the hand which has been illustrated by the two preceding facsimiles, there are two main styles which practically cover the varieties enumerated in the special works on the subject, viz., the Chancery hand and the Court hand, The former was used for records under the great seal ; the latter was employed in the courts of King's Bench and Common Pleas, for fines and recoveries, placita, etc. These two kinds of writing do not vary very materially ; both may be described as fanciful renderings of the ordinary law hand. The Chancery hand, of the pattern found in its developed form in the sixteenth century, appears in an incipient stage in the latter part of the fourteenth century, and is therefore of an earlier origin than the Court hand, which indeed is rather a modification of the Chancery hand itself. It will be enongh to select one or two examples of each style in order to give a general idea of their character.
First we take a few lines from an exemplification of a Chancery decree of the year 1539 (Brit. Mus., Add. Ch. 26,969) in illustration of the Chancery hand of the reign of Henry VIII.
|revencionum Corone nostre quoddam decretum— | —xxiiij die Novembris Anno regni domini Regi [s]— | —[reve]ncionum Corone sue Et protulit ibidem quand[am]— | ·—[ver]ba This Indenture made the— | —the grace of god of Englond and Fraunce— | —Englond Betwene Raf Burell doctor in-— | —[C]ountie of Leicester of the oon partie and|
Next, an example is taken from a grant of wardship and marriage of the year 1618, which illustrates the form which the hand had assumed in the reign of James I. (Brit. Mus., Add. Ch. 28,271), a form altogether of the modern type which continued in practice to quite a recent date.
|Grant of Wardship.—A.D. 1618.|
|quousque eadem Maria Gwynet executor— | —vel habuerint Et hoc absque compoto seu aliq[uo]— | —contingat predictum Georgium Gwynet ante[quam]— | —Maria Gwynet executores sive assignati sui— [ heredibus masculis eiusdem Georgii Gwynet tu[nc]— | —presentes damus et concedimus prefate Marie Gwy[net]|
In these two examples of the Chancery hand it will be seen that the chief characteristic is a fanciful angular and upright treatment of the letters without deviating from the setting of ordinary writing.
With the Court hand the treatment is different. While the shapes of the letters (with the exception of e, which in this style is in the circular form) are practically the same as in the Chancery hand, the cast of the writing is quite altered by lateral compression, which cramps and narrows the letters in an exaggerated manner.
Our first example of the Court hand is of Henry VIII.'s reign, and is taken from a final concord, or foot of a fine, of the year 1530 (Brit. Mus., Add. Ch. 23,539).
|Final Concord.—A.D. 1530.|
|Hec est finalis concordia facta in Curia domini Regis— | domini Hibernie a conquestu vicesimo primo coram Robert[o]
— | Inter Antonium Wyngfeld Militem Iohannem Audele[y]— | et Reginaldum Dygby Armigerum deforcientes de Maneri[o]
— | predictum Manerium cum pertinentiis esse lus ipsius Humfridi et
Next we select a passage from an exemplification of a plea of Elizabeth's reign, dated in tbe year 1578 (Brit. Mus., Add. Ch. 25,968).
|facit Ideo consideratum est quod predictus Iohannes Collyn recuperet | —[misericordi]a et cetera Et super hoc predictus Iohannes Collyn petit breve | —[Trinit]atis in tres septimanas et cetera Ad quem diem hic | —[u]ltimo preterito habere fecit prefato Iohanni Collyn | —[presenc]ium duximus exemplificanda In cuius rei testimonium|
There is practically no great difference in style between these two specimens. The latter is perhaps to some extent the better hand and shows a very slight advance on the other ; but the forms of the letters are so stereotyped in this class of writing that the space of nearly half a century which lies between the two documents has impressed but little trace of change on the later one.
Lastly, to show further how very gradual was the alteration wrought by time in the character of the Court hand, an example is taken from a final concord of the reign of Charles II., bearing the date of 1673 (Brit. Mus., Add. Ch. 25,871), nearly a Century and a half after the date of the final concord above, of the time of Henry VIII., with which it is to be compared.
|Final Concord.—A.D. 1673.|
|Hec est finalis Concordia facta in Curia domini— | defensoris et cetera a Conquestu vicesimo quinto Cor[am]— | Willelmum Yates Generosum et Dinam uxorem eius— | duabus acris terre decern acris pasture et tribus— | cum pertinentiis esse ius ipsius Willelmi ut illa que iide[m]|
The more recent date of this document is to be recognized by the coarser style of the writing and by the broken appearance of the letters, which is effected by their more strongly defined angularity.
The Court hand continued in practice down to the reign of George II. ; the Chancery hand still survives in the modern engrossing hands employed in enrolments and patents.