Welcome to the Official Website of the Ealdormere Scribal College. The College is comprised of the illuminators, calligraphers and other scribal oriented artisans within the Kingdom of Ealdormere (encompassing most of the Province of Ontario, Canada) in the Society For Creative Anachronism, under the guidence of the Trillium Signet. If you would like to become a scribe or have your name added to the Signet's list, please contact the Trillium Signet directly
Century English Legal Documents
Extant legal documents that we might use as our models fall into three categories: Individual legal documents, collections of individual original legal documents, and collections of copied legal documents (often dating from earlier periods).
legal documents were often retained by churches, cities, and baronial
and royal households and kept in their archives. A good example of an
extant individual legal document from this period would be this royal
charter dating from 1136:
Collections of original legal documents began to be more common towards the end of the century with the rise of "feet of fines." Records of land transfers would be recorded in triplicate on the same piece of parchment-one on the left, one on the right, and one at the bottom. The parchment would then be cut so that each party would receive a copy, and the bottom-or "foot" of the final concord-or "fine"-would be kept as a record by the courts.
collections were also compiled during the twelfth century. In these collections, the various legal documents
of (usually) a religious house, cathedral, or church would be recopied
so that they could be easily bound together in book format. These documents usually lacked seals, but might
be scribed in a more legible script, often with illumination.
Charter of King Edgar, Cartulary of
Original legal documents in the 12th century were usually executed in either a cursive or a chancery script. Both of these are related to the late Carolingian and early Gothic scripts currently in use in the 12th century, but included cursive (the word means "running"; thus, linked together) elements for ease and speed of writing. These documents were written in Latin and were heavily abbreviated to save parchment and time.
The royal charter on the first page of this handout shows a typical 12th century English chancery script. Note the many abbreviations-for example, the word "epo" with a squiggle above it in the first line is the abbreviation for "episcopo" (bishop), and the many marks that look like the numeral 7 are shorthand for "et" (and). Notice also how basic the layout is-there is no ornamentation at all, not even on the first line. However, note the size of the huge royal seal.
a slightly different type of document, here is a document dating from
1154 written in Italian chancery script:
(source: V. Federici, La scrittura delle cancellerie italiane secoli XIII-Xvii, pl. 32)
Note the highly ornamented and wide-spaced script. If you look closely at the letters, they have the same basic shapes as an early Italian Gothic script, but with the addition of the ornamented ascenders. Note the first line consists of a very ornamental, compressed and elongated majuscule script.
is a particularly beautiful twelfth-century papal bull from the same
(source: Exempla scripturarum, fasc. 3; Acta pontificum,
ed. G. Batelli (
the large capital, the wide spacing, and the graceful ascenders. Since this is a bull (from bulla, the word for
lead seal), this document would have originally had a large attached
Copied legal documents in charter collections (cartularies) did not usually use a cursive or chancery script. Instead, they tended to use more elegant calligraphic hands, sometimes with illumination, in whatever the prevailing scribal hand of the day was. Thus, the document below, a charter of King Cnut to Earl Godwine (11th century) from a manuscript dated 1130-1140 is executed in a typical late Caroline/early Gothic script.
the large opening line "Christi Omnipotentis" with the illuminated "X",
followed by a second line in majuscule script, and then the main body
of the text. A particularly interesting
portion of this particular document is the section, starting with the
large "O" halfway down the page, in Anglo-Saxon. Also note in this document
the signature area. The document
is signed "Ego CNUT Rex anglorum cum
General Principles for Recreating Charters
Layout: More formal charters use white space generously, with large borders. Ordinary legal documents often took up all available space on the page. Documents in cartularies used a more traditional book page layout.
Script: Chancery or cursive script, late Caroline or early Gothic, or, if using the cartulary model, a transitional Caroline/Gothic script is appropriate.
are a few examples of English Caroline or transitional scripts from
the 12th century:
Decoration: Ornate first lines using red, blue or green ink; long or decorated ascenders and/or descenders; some illumination in the cartulary model.
Signatures: Probably both on the same line, perhaps in a sentence structure as in King Cnut's charter above (leaving space for the King and Queen to add their names):
Ego Edouard Rex Ealdormeris cum Regina mea Genevieve
There are several ways of attaching a seal to a document. The seal above is attached by a woven band (tablet weaving is ideal for this purpose. Another common way of attaching a seal is with a strip of parchment:
Silk braids or fibres were also often used to attach seals:
Simple twisted seal tag (from a handout by Mistress Emmelyne de Marksbury)
More complex braided seal tag:
Diamond-shaped seal tag
http://www.dur.ac.uk/medieval.documents/documents.htm (lots of examples of writs, many with seals)
Please report any broken or bad links to the web master
This is the recognized website for the Ealdormere Scribal College within the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. and is maintained by Master Erick of Longacres (mka David Carswell). This site may contain electronic versions of the group's governing documents. Any discrepancies between the electronic version of any information on this site and the printed version that is available from the originating office will be decided in favor of the printed version.
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