The Handwriting of Fifteenth-Century Privy Seal and Council Clerks

Sebastian Sobecki*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Although most scholars of medieval English palaeography are familiar with the hand of the Privy Seal clerk and poet Thomas Hoccleve, almost nothing is known about the handwriting of his fellow clerks. This article is the first attempt to identify and describe the hands of a number of clerks who wrote for the Privy Seal and for the Council in the fifteenth century. In Part 1, I identify the handwriting of Hoccleve’s fellow clerks, including William Alberton, Henry Benet, John Claydon, John Hethe, John Offord, and Richard Priour, adding writs, letters, charters, and manuscripts in their hands. I also identify the hand of the Council clerk Richard Caudray and attribute further records to the Council and Privy Seal clerk Robert Frye. Part 2 offers a reconsideration of the features of Hoccleve’s handwriting in the light of the new findings. This article also identifies the scribal stints and hands in four documents produced by Privy Seal clerks: British Library, MS Add. 24,062 (Hoccleve’s Formulary); BL, MS Cotton Cleopatra F. iii (Part 1 of the Book of the Council); BL, MS Harley 219; and Edinburgh University Library, MS 183 (Privy Seal and Signet formulary, or ‘Royal Letter Book’). This article reveals the extent to which Privy Seal clerks participated in the copying of literature and offers a more nuanced understanding of the varieties of the secretary script used by government scribes.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)253–279
    Number of pages27
    JournalThe Review of English Studies
    Issue number304
    Early online date2-Sept-2020
    Publication statusPublished - Apr-2021

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