Letter from Edward IV to Maximilian, Duke of Austria and Burgundy
Sent on February 10, 1479, this letter from Edward IV to Maximilian, Duke of Austria and Burgundy addresses a case of piracy against English subjects. Edward IV complains about the seizure by servants of the counts of Nassau and Romont (subjects of Duke Maximilian) of the ship of John Franke of Suffolk carrying grain and merchandise belonging to Englishmen John Layland and John Perro, whose loss is enumerated and for which restitution is sought. The letter is 25 lines long and wirtten in brown ink in a chancery hand and sealed with Edward IV's private seal in red wax.
The transisition from manuscript to print didn't happen immediately after Gutenberg invented moveable type. Printed books were expensive and scholars continued to copy manuscripts for their own study. Additionally, manuscript documents were the convention for court and legal documents. The chancery hand used in this letter is sometimes referred to as a court hand and would have been used to write out court documents or, as in this case, royal letters. The terms for various hands are linked to the profession or office scribes held. The secretary hand that is typical of the 16th century evolves out of the chancery or court hand and is associated with the office of secretary. Annotations by early modern readers in books are often in secretary or italic hands which were commonly used by humanist scholars.
For more examples of how handwriting was used for legal and financial documents, view our Schulich Historical Fiancial Documents Collection.