For our October meeting, we delved into the world of Secretary Hand, a writing style that crops up in 14th-16th century England. This hand was the focus of my studies at the Folger last summer, and I was eager to share its wondrous glory with the Collective.

We began with an alphabet lesson. Some letters in Secretary Hand look a lot like modern cursive; some feel completely alien to our eyes.

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We also talked about some important abbreviations: “es” graphs, “er” graphs, thorns, superscript letters, special p’s (an elaborately drawn p that stands for “pro,” “per,” “pre,” or similar), and a few others.

Next, we tried out EMMO, Folger’s transcription software, which contains a wealth of untranscribed samples of Secretary Hand. It was a great exercise to do as a group, because reading Secretary Hand can feel a lot like puzzle solving. The more people there are to help, the better!

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Secretary Hand can feel daunting at first–it definitely was to me–but I hope this meeting made it less intimidating for people. I had a lot of fun!