6. cursive: script-mixing

Takamiya MS 18: Brut chronicle

Takamiya MS 18. The Brut, or The Chronicles of England. England (Norfolk?), c. 1437-1450. 

It was very common for medieval scribes to have several scripts in their repertoire. Takamiya MS 18 is an example of one way that mastery of multiple scripts was employed: Secretary was used for the body of the text and Anglicana for the running captions and marginal headings. In this manuscript, the scribe used Anglicana just as modern printed works use italic or bold for emphasis, secondary information, or to indicate chapter and text divisions.

Beinecke MS 493: Regiment of princes, etc.

Beinecke MS 493. Thomas Hoccleve, The Regiment of Princes and other works. England, c. 1450-1475. 

More common, however, are manuscripts in which the scripts are mixed so that letterforms from more than one script style occur within the same text. In fifteenth-century England, letterforms were most often drawn from Anglicana and Secretary, the two dominant scripts.

Even fairly high-quality, professionally produced manuscripts give evidence of mixing scripts, which suggests that mixed scripts were aesthetically acceptable to audiences as well as, perhaps, being somewhat easier for scribes to execute.

Beinecke MS 493, a fifteenth-century manuscript collection of works by the poet Thomas Hoccleve (d. 1426), includes his best-known work, The Regiment of Princes, a didactic text on the proper education of a prince. The scribe evidently took pains to produce a visually impressive manuscript: lines in red ink occur between stanzas and also connect rhyming words, and many small decorative touches are included, such as the extremely tall ascending strokes in the top lines. While the script he used for prose sections of the volume is less decorated and more compressed, it was still scrupulously executed.

It is notable, then, that this careful scribe employed a mixed hand that mingles Secretary with Anglicana letterforms. While his w’s are recognizably Anglicana, as are the 8-shaped g’s, many of his a’s are written in the single-compartment Secretary form. Nor is it always possible for a modern reader to discern a pattern. While the scribe prefers the double-lobed Anglicana a for the beginnings of sentences and the stand-alone word “a,” he often—but not always — uses the single-compartment a within words. Occasionally both forms can be seen within adjacent words.

Takamiya MS 30: The Fall of princes

Takamiya MS 30. John Lydgate, The Fall of Princes (fragment). England, c. 1450. 

This elegant manuscript of Lydgate’s Fall of Princes demonstrates the international circulation of both texts and scripts in the mid-fifteenth century. The English poem is a translation of Laurent de Premierfait’s prose work Des cas des nobles hommes et femmes, itself a translation of Boccaccio’s Latin De casibus virorum illustrium written in the mid-fourteenth century. This English manuscript is copied in a late English version of Continental Secretary script, with a few influences from the fashionable French lettre batarde. 

6. cursive: script-mixing