Reading the Court Script of Ferdinand and Isabella


Deciphering old script can be a headache and a joy – at the same time.   Previously, we looked at script from a document from the 11th century.  This newly acquired piece, signed by the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, an important document written the day of the start of the seige of Granada, which ended Muslim occupation in Spain, has its own challenges.

– To begin, the signatures are not in fact the names of Ferdinand and Isabella, but their titles.  It reads “Yo el Rey” and “Yo la Reyna.”


– The language is antiquated and, though one can guess its modern application, you would not see this written in a modern newspaper.  See below, which reads “Ovimos fecho merced.”  Note that “ovimos” is the old form of “hemos” and “fecho” today would be “hecho.”  Note that merced is nothing more than an M and D with the line above indicating an abbreviation.


– Below is alcayde (also written alcaide), a term used for Governor.


– Abbreviations get complicated.  Below reads, in full, “para que Don Alonso pueda administrar la.”  Can you decipher this from the below?  The only word written in full is “pueda.”


– Or try this one:


It reads “Vuestros mandamientos e de quien el dicho vuestro.”  Not easy.

– Another example old Spanish mixed with abbreviation.


This middle line above reads “fasta que Realmente.”  Fasta is an earlier verison of hasta.

– And if you read the document, then you have to date it.  Does this last line look like April 14, 1491 to you?


It reads “Al XIV dia de Abril de mille…”  It continues…


– “Mille e quatrocientos e noventa e un anos.”  Again, abbreviated.

– As a final test, can you read the below?  Small hint: the letter “c” can be hard to find and is often attached to another letter.


“Al concejo e omnes buenos.”

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