Bastarda or in its French manifestation, Lettre Bâtarde, is the answer to the demand for a bookhand which will look elegant but have all the convenience of being cursive. Bastard means 'illegitimate', and therefore 'hybrid' or 'something that looks good but isn't quite the thing'. Despite this derogatory label, it can be extremely handsome, and was used for some high-status manuscripts, including Books of Hours and (particularly) luxury vernacular books.
It has a whole range of variants, as it is written by scribes who also do more down-market scripts for other purposes, and 'contamination' takes place. In England it and the more cursive version of textura called Anglicana produce a hybrid which is called Bastarda Anglicana. We shall look at some of these cursive scripts later. However, it is more important at this stage for you to recognise and enjoy its general features than niggle over whether a particular letter form is 'correct' or not.
This is a loose folio from a Book of Hours written in France, probably Rouen, in the 1480s. It is one of those you looked at at the beginning of the course. It is a classic Lettre bâtarde, though not as elongated or spiky as some versions of the script.
|1.....Transcribe it, paying particular
attention to the abbreviations.|
.......I have transcribed the first two and the last five lines as a starter.
.......Go to the following pages for a close-up version in slices.
|2.....Copy out a line, using pen and ink. What do you notice about the mechanics of writing?|
|3.....Describe it in terms of|
..A..... Individual letter forms.
..B..... Overall aspect;
|4.....Describe the layout.|
© MEG TWYCROSS 2000