Swabian Chirograph Contract

Swabia today is a cultural and linguistic region in Southern Germany but in the Roman and Medieval periods it was an independent area which later became a Duchy and was part of the early Holy Roman Empire1

This was a commissioned piece for two friends who were forming a student-teacher relationship.

A chirograph is a form of legal document from the Medieval period that helped prevent forgery. Multiple copies of a document were written on a single piece of parchment, or in later periods, paper. Between each copy the word “chirographum” was written in such a way that the document could be cut in a distinctive pattern through the word and its authenticity could be proven by comparing the two sides of the cut.2

Swabia had its own very distinctive decorative writing style and the capital letter is from an extant writing manual by a Swabian scribe named Gregorius Bock written between 1510-1517.3

This particular chirograph was written on pergamena vegetable parchment using a variant of the gothic letterform called “Fraktur” which was typified by both straight and angular strokes that gave the letters a broken (fractured) appearance in some cases. It was developed and popularized in Central Europe and went on to become iconically associated with Germany.

  1. Swabia – Wikipedia
  2. Chirograph – Wikipedia
  3. Beinecke MS439 “Scribal Pattern Book” by Gregorius Bock

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