Current Archives Exhibit

WTF:  Ornate Representations of the Letter “T” in English Legal Manuscripts.
On view near the Rare Book Room, Level 2.

Prior to the 20th Century, English land title deeds were typically written by hand on large sheets of vellum (a fine parchment made from calf skin). While the text in these deeds is usually tedious, repetitive, and difficult to read, the physical presentation is often quite striking. In particular, the law clerks who were responsible for writing the documents frequently lavished much attention on elaborate and decorative (“engrossed”) renderings of the initial letter. In English-language deeds, this was usually the letter T in the phrase “This Indenture” (an indenture was a contract between two or more parties).  This style drew upon the long tradition of illuminated manuscripts created in British and Irish monasteries. It also might have served as an anti-forgery measure.

This exhibit offers fifteen especially striking examples from the age When T’s Flourished.

Image of five documents with ornate T's

Manuscript Deeds Collection, 1286-1949.

The Manuscript Deeds collection is an artificially created collection acquired by donation and purchase. The collection consists primarily of various types of land deeds created in England during the years 1286 to 1949. Most documents are on vellum, with a few on paper.

Materials are arranged by year, name of first party, and document desciption.

The Emory Finding Aid for the collection is available at