Chancery hand

The term "chancery hand" can refer to either of two distinct styles of historical handwriting.

English chancery hand. Facsimile letter from Henry V of England, 1418.
Chancery cursive (Cancelleresca corsiva) hand. Papal Letter to Christian II of Denmark, 21 April 1518 (Royal Archives)

A chancery hand was at first a form of handwriting for business transactions that developed in the Lateran chancery (the Cancelleria Apostolica) of the 13th century, then spread to France, notably through the Avignon Papacy, and to England after 1350.[1] This early "chancery hand" is a form of blackletter. Versions of it were adopted by royal and ducal chanceries, which were often staffed by clerics who had taken minor orders.

A later cursive "chancery hand", also developed in the Vatican but based on humanist minuscule (itself based on Carolingian minuscule), was introduced in the 1420s by Niccolò Niccoli; it was the manuscript origin of the typefaces we recognize as italic.


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