Publisher’s Synopsis :
First published in 1969, English Cursive Book Hands rapidly established itself as a key resource for the study and teaching of palaeography. It covers the changes in handwriting that arose from the mid-twelfth century, tracking the growth and development of the cursive script that came to dominate book production in medieval England. This reprint is a re-issue of the 1979 second edition published by Scolar Press.
This study sets out the nature of the developments which took place in English book hands, from the mid-twelfth century, largely determined by two factors: the increasing demand for books, and the increase in the size of the works to be copied. The secularization of learning and the rise of the universities created a voracious demand for texts and commentaries. At the same time improving standards of literacy led to a demand from a wide range of patrons for books of a more general nature.
In such circumstances speed and ease of writing became increasingly important. Scribes began to use different kinds of handwriting for different classes of books, and as a result a new 'hierarchy' of scripts arose, each with its own sequence of development. Towards the end of the thirteenth century the cursive script which had recently been evolved for the preparation of documents was introduced into books.
A hierarchy also arose in the cursive script itself, as scribes began to devise more than one way of writing depending on the degree of formality they required. Eventually the varieties of cursive usurped the functions of other scripts in the copying of nearly all kinds of books and documents. English Cursive Book Hands illustrates the developments which took place in the cursive handwriting used in England for writing books.
About the author:
M.B. Parkes is Professor emeritus of Palaeography in the University of Oxford, and Fellow emeritus of Keble College. He is a Senior Fellow of the British Academy and a Corresponding Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America. He is the author of Their Hands Before Our Eyes: A Closer Look at Scribes and his other publications include Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West.
An extract from the preface to the book by the author:
This is intended to be a teaching book. The emphasis is entirely upon the major varieties of English cursive handwriting in this period, and the principal developments, which took place in them. Unfortunately, limitations of space have prevented any discussion of abbreviations used by the scribes, or of changes in the format of manuscripts, but the reader will find some observations on these topics in the notes to the plates. References in the footnotes and the notes to the plates are not intended to be exhaustive, but to provide a starting-point for further inquiries. For the benefit of the student I have included notes on the terminology I have used and on the transcriptions.
Where possible I have preferred to choose a plate from a dated or a datable manuscript, even though this has meant that occasionally I have had to include a plate from a manuscript which has already been reproduced elsewhere. However, since most of the manuscripts which I have used to illustrate Secretary book hands are undated, I have included a sequence of extracts from documents to illustrate the criteria for dating. I am conscious that in some cases a particular plate has been chosen to illustrate so many features that it fails to illustrate any one of them very well. All plates are reproduced to the actual size of the manuscript unless otherwise stated. Whenever possible I have referred to other reproductions which occur in printed books or collections of facsimiles. I have relied entirely upon such collections to illustrate the development of the Anglicana script in documents, and developments in French document hands. M. B. P., Keble College, Oxford, April 1969
What others have said about this book:
“Few palaeographical handbooks achieve the status of classics, but Malcolm Parkes’s English Cursive Book Hands, 1250-1500 is beyond doubt one of them. Since it was first published in 1969 the accuracy of its judgements and the lapidary manner in which they are expressed have rendered it the touchstone for the description and analysis of later medieval English handwriting. It is a work of permanent significance, and its reappearance in a second reprint will be universally welcomed” Richard Beadle, University of Cambridge, UK
This is avowedly a teaching book, one from which a teacher can teach others, or a learner
can teach himself. Speculum, 1971
2nd reprint, 1979, hardback, 84pp, monocrome throughout, 22.2 x 28.2cm