The ABC of Medieval English Writing
Lecture by Daniel Wakelin
Given at the Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto, on March 27, 2019
Excerpt: I need to teach you how to read your ABC so we’re going to go back to first principles. If you’ve ever handled manuscripts of the late Middle Ages you’ll have seen perhaps a few alphabets such as these – these were written in 15th century England onto a flyleaf. One alphabet on the front of the flyleaf on the left is in a script which we would call textualiss or textura – like black lettuce font. Another on the back of the flyleaf on the right here is in a variety of cursive handwriting – and the flyleaf also contains a medical remedy to cure water retention in case that’s useful. These pages are unexceptional and everyday occurrences in late medieval England. There are lots of alphabets like these scribbled into books from England from the late 14th to the early 16th centuries at the end of the Middle Ages.
Daniel Wakelin is the Jeremy Griffiths Professor of Medieval English Palaeography in the Faculty of English and St Hilda’s College, University of Oxford. Click here to visit his university webpage or follow him on Twitter @DanielWakelin1
Top Image: The Tudor Pattern Book. Bodleian Library, MS. Ashmole 1504