Online Tuition in the Palaeography of Scottish Documents

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Other commonly occurring Secretary Hand letters

Several Secretary Hand letters are very different from their modern equivalents. The letter k can fox even experienced palaeographers. The letters x, y and z can be easily confused, especially with the archaic letters thorn and yogh. There are separate pages about these in the coaching manual. However, for the novice palaeographer there are a few more letters which occur quite frequently and must be learned.

The Secretary Hand a is not dissimilar to the modern (written, as opposed to printed) a. In its most definitive form it has a diagonal stroke leading from bottom left to top right. This is sometimes referred to as an attacking stroke. It appears below on its own and in the word thame:

Secretary Hand a and the word thame

The Secretary Hand letter b was similar to the modern b, but nearer to a modern capital B, as you can see below.

Secretary Hand b, the word box and the word breithren

The Secretary Hand c in its most basic form looks like two sides of a square or the modern letter r, but more often the vertical stroke is curved or diagonal:

Secretary Hand c

The Secretary Hand letter d is not unlike the modern form, but note how similar it is to the Secretary Hand e:

Secretary Hand letters d, d, e and e

The secretary hand h looks like a butcher’s hook and descends below the line. In the following examples, number 1 shows a classic secretary hand h, number 2 shows the word hundreth, but note how the h at the end of the word is much less well-formed, and number 3 shows another ligature in the word schilling, where, again, the h is not so well formed.

Secretary Hand h, the word hundreth and the word schilling

Two forms of the letter r should be expected. The first (a curly r) is formed by three strokes of the pen. The second (a descending r) is formed by three descending diagonal strokes of the pen.

Secretary Hand curly r and descending r

The Secretary Hand t is very similar to the Secretary Hand c. In its most basic form it consists of a vertical stroke and a horizontal stroke, but there is a tendency for the top of vertical stroke to curl to the right, although not always as elaborately as in the second example below:

Secretary Hand t

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