Medieval Spelling

Last week, in the course of my work as a financial administrator, I stumbled upon a quote from a very old document. By very old, I mean mediveal. It is the Statute of Charitable Uses Act from 1601, also known as the Statute of Elizabeth.

I was not so much taken by the content of this document, although it is interesting to see the things she believed charity to encompass. I was more fascinated with the spelling. It is fairly simple to read, the spelling is not that unlike ours, and yet it is different enough to captivate my imagination. Here is a passage from the document:

An Acte to redresse the Misemployment of Landes Goodes and Stockes of Money heretofore given to Charitable Uses. Whereas Landes Tenementes Rentes Annuities Profittes Hereditamentes, Goodes Chattels Money and Stockes of Money, have bene heretofore given limitted appointed and assigned, as well by the Queenes most excellent Majestie and her moste noble Progenitors, as by sondrie other well disposed persons, some for Releife of aged impotent and poore people, some for Maintenance of sicke and maymed Souldiers and Marriners, Schooles of Learninge, Free Schooles and Schollers in Universities, some for Repaire of Bridges Portes Havens Causwaies Churches Seabankes and Highwaies, some for Educacion and prefermente of Orphans, some for or towardes Reliefe Stocke or Maintenance of Howses of Correccion, some for Mariages of poore Maides, some for Supportacion Ayde and Helpe of younge tradesmen Handicraftesmen and persons decayed, and others for reliefe or redemption of Prisoners or Captives, and for aide or ease of any poore Inhabitantes concerninge paymente of Fifteenes, setting out of Souldiers and other Taxes.

My favourite is ‘Howses of Correccion’. ‘Maymed’ and ‘Schooles of Learninge’, are a close second. Did you also notice how long the sentence is? And it didn’t end there. There was actually a semi-colon where I stopped the quote. I didn’t look far enough down the document to find a full stop.

I woulde love to hear your thoughts about this spellinge, but, juste for fun, why not try to reply with an attempt at this verie olde writing style.


Published in: on 4th August, 2010 at 8:28 am  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The documente is so interestinge! Whate a finde! One thinge that standes out is frequente use of the “e” endinge whiche has often bene dropped in Moderne Englishe. I wonder howe differente their pronunciacion was? There is not alot of consistencie though (eg. bothe “moste” and “most” are used). Capitale letters are also used more frequentlie, for moste nounes.

    The spellinge often seemes closer to the way wordes sounde (eg “howses”, “correccion”). Wordes like “educacion”, “hereditamente” and the “e” endinges also reminde me of Spanishe/Frenche. I wonder whether they showe Latine/Frenche influence?

    Despite these differences it is amazinge to thinke that the Englishe language is stille so similare even after foure hundred yeares and halfe a worlde away.

    • I’m glad you had fun with that, Jacquie! I agree that there are inconsistencies. But, it makes me want to read more olde documents, now. 🙂

  2. I enjoye ‘persons decayed’. That’s a worrie!

    • Hehe! I agree with you. It is indeede a worrie! 🙂

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