'The Secretary Hand' from a Sixteenth Century handwriting manual

John de Beauchesne1571

Derbyshire Record Office

Derbyshire Record Office
Matlock, United Kingdom

Secretary hand was a form of handwriting that developed in England towards the end of the 1400s. It was easier and quicker to write than Anglicana, the hand used by scribes in the Medieval period for legal documents. As England moved into the 1500s, and commercial interests grew, attitudes towards writing changed. Writing had previously been considered too menial a task for a gentleman, but now many people needed to be able to write for business and administration. Secretary hand suited writing in English, rather than Latin, and became the common form of handwriting until the 1700s.

The full title of this manual is: "A booke containing divers sortes of hands, as well the English as French secretarie with the Italian, Roman, Chancelry and court hands. Also the true and just proportion of the Capitall Romae set forth by John de Beav Chesne P[arisien] and M[aster] John Baildon. Imprinted at London by Thomas Vautrovillier dwelling in the blacke frieres."

John de Beauchesne (c.1538-1620) was a scribe and teacher of penmanship. He was born in Paris but moved to England in c. 1565. He may have been a Huguenot as he seems to have been associated with a number of Huguenot printers and booksellers who came to England at around this time. He first published this book in 1570; this copy is a reissue of 1571.


  • Title: 'The Secretary Hand' from a Sixteenth Century handwriting manual
  • Creator: John de Beauchesne
  • Date Created: 1571
  • Location Created: London, England
  • Provenance: Ogden family of Stanley (D331/26/1)
  • Subject Keywords: Handwriting, Calligraphy, Palaeography

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