This is a compilation of openings and closings from medieval manuscripts to assist you in your letter-writing. They include public exhortations, private love letters, a Valentine, letters from kings and letters from servants. I hope you will find something of interest here. Please note that the links to the full texts will take you outside the DragonBear site to the "original" e-text. There is a full list of sources at the bottom of this page.
4th century Constantinople
TO MY LADY,
4th century Constantinople
TO MY LORD, THE MOST REVEREND AND DIVINELY BELOVED BISHOP INNOCENT, JOHN SENDS GREETING IN THE LORD.
Count Stephen to Adele, his sweetest and most amiable wife, to his dear children, and to all his vassals of all ranks--his greeting and blessing.
12th century France
To her master, nay father, to her husband, nay brother; his handmaid, nay daughter, his spouse, nay sister: to ABELARD, HELOISE.
[heading] Conrad, by the grace of God, august king of the Romans, to venerable Wibald, abbot of Corvey, his most kind greeting.
Because we know that you especially desire to hear from us and to learn the state of our prosperity, we think it fitting to first tell you of this.
12th century France: 1160
To the venerable and excellent Louis, king of Gaul, Constance, daughter of Alan count of Brittany, greetings and the bond of friendship.
12th century England: mid-October 1170
[address] To William Brito, sub-prior, Robert, sacrist, and the obedientiaries of Christ Church, Canterbury
To his dear friends and brothers, William the sub-prior, Robert the sacrist, and the others who have charge in Canterbury's holy church, their John: greeting - and do you make wise provision for the future.
Frederic, by the grace of God, the august emperor of the Romans, king of Jerusalem and Sicily, to his well-beloved friend Henry, king of the English, health and sincere affection.
[heading]From Damietta, 1249.
To his dear halfbrother and wellbeloved friend, master B. of Chartres, student at Paris, Guy, a knight of the household of the viscount of Melun, greeting and a ready will to do his pleasure.
13th century England: 1265
"To the most excellent lord Henry, by the grace Of God, king of England, &c. The barons and others, his faithful subjects, wishing to observe their oaths and the fidelity due to God and to him, wish health, and tender their lawful service with all respect and honor."
13th century England: 1265
"Henry, by the grace of God, king of England, &c., to Simon de Montfort and Gilbert de Clare, and their partisans."
13th-14th century Italy
To the great and most victorious lord, Lord Can Grande della Scala, Vicar General of the Principate of the Holy Roman Emperor in the town of Verona and the municipality of Vicenza, his most devoted Dante Alighieri, Florentine in birth but not in manners, wishes him a happy life through long years, as well as a continuous increase in his glorious reputation.
14th century Italy: 1311
Dante Alighieri, a Florentine undeservedly in exile, to the most iniquitous Florentines
within the city.
15th century England: 1430
My right worthy and worshipful lord, I recommend me to you.
15th century England: 1444
[address] To my worshipful husband W. Paston be this letter taken.
Dear husband, I recommend me to you, &c.
15th century England: 1445
[address] To Edmond Paston of Clyfford's Inn in London be this letter take.
To mine well-beloved son I greet you well, and advise you to think onst of the day of your father's counsel to learn the law;
15th century England: 1454
Right worshipful and my right especial lord, I recommend me to your good lordship, beseeching your lordship that ye take not to displeasance though I write you as I here say...
15th century England: 1459
[address] To my right worshipful mother Agnes Paston.
Right worshipful and my most entirely beloved mother, in the most lowly manner I recommend me unto your good motherhood, beseeching you daily and nightly of your motherly blessing, ever-more desiring to hear of your welfare and prosperity, the which I pray God to continue and increase to your heart's desire; and if it liked your good motherhood to hear of me and how I do, at the making of this letter I was in good health of body, thanked be Jesu.
15th century England: 1472
To the right high and mighty prince and my right good and gracious lord, my lord the Duke of Norfolk. Meekly beseecheth your highness your poor and true continual servant and orator John Paston the younger that it might please your good grace to call on-to your most discreet and notable remembrance that lateward,
15th century England: 1474
Since it is so that I may not, as oft as I would, be there as I might do my message myself, mine own fair Mistress Ann, I pray you to accept this bill for my messenger to recommend me to you in my most faithful wise, as he that fainest of all other desires to know of your welfare, which I pray God increase to your most pleasure.
15th century England: 1476
[address] A George Cely.
[heading] (Anno lxxvj)
Well-beloved Brother I recommend me heartily to you furthermore informing you that ...
15th century England: 1476?
Mistress, though so be that I, unacquainted with you as yet, take upon me to be thus bold as to write unto you without your knowledge and leave, yet, mistress, for such poor service as I now in my mind owe you, purposing, ye not displeased, during my life to continue the same, I beseech you to pardon my boldness and not to distain but to accept this simple bill to recommend me to you in such wise as I best can or may imagine to your most pleasure;
15th century England: 1477
[address] Unto my right well-beloved Valentine John Paston, squire, be this bill + delivered, &c.
Right reverent and worshipful and my right well-beloved Valentine, I recommend me unto you full heartily, desiring to hear of your welfare, which I beseech Almighty God long for to preserve unto his pleasure and your heart's desire. And if it please you to hear of my welfare, I am not in good health of body nor of heart, nor shall be till I hear from you;
15th century England: 1477
[address] To the right worshipful and my very good lady and cousin Dame Elizabeth Brews.
Right worshipful and my chief lady and cousin, as heartily as I can I recommend me to you. Madam, liketh you to understand that the chief cause of my writing to you at this season is this.
15th century England: 1478
[address] Unto my right worshipful Father Richard Cely merchant of the Staple off Calais Dwelling at London in Mark Lane so it come.
[heading] Jesu M l iiij c lxxviij
Right worshipful Father after all due recommendation pretending I recommend me unto you in the lowliest wise that I can or may Further more pleaseth it to understand ...
15th century England: 1478
[address] To George Cely at Calais be this deliver.
[heading] Richard Cely the Elder
I greet thee well and I have received a letter from thee writ at Bruges the ix day of June the which letter I have well understand every point...
15th century England: 1481
[address] To my right worshipful master John Paston, in haste.
Right reverent and worshipful sir, in my most humble wise I recommend me unto you as lowly as I can, &c.
15th century England: 1480's?
[address] To my full good friend George Cely.
My full trusty friend I recommend me to you. I have received your kind and loving letter and well understand all things therein contained whereof thank you and for your good and true heart.
15th century England: 1487
[address] To my right worshipful masters Richard and George Cely merchants of the staple of Calais at London in Mark Lane so it dd:
[heading]Jesu M l iiij c iiij xx vij
Right worshipful Sirs and my reverent masters after all due recommendation preceding I lowly recommend me unto your masterships. Further more please it your masterships to understand that...
15th century Italy: 1490's
To Benedictus Arsagus Papiensis, Laura Cereta sends greetings.
15th century Italy: 1497
[heading] To Pier Sodeini, Gonfalonier of the Republic of Florence
Magnificent Lord. After humble reverence and due commendations, etc. It may be that your Magnificence will be surprised by [this conjunction of] my rashness and your customary wisdom, in that I should so absurdly bestir myself to write to your Magnificence the present so-prolix letter: knowing (as I do) that your Magnificence is continually employed in high councils and affairs concerning the good government of this sublime Republic. And will hold me not only presumptuous, but also idlymeddlesome in setting myself to write things, neither suitable to your station, nor entertaining, and written in barbarous style, and outside of every canon of polite literature: but my confidence which I have in your virtues and in the truth of my writing, which are things [that] are not found written neither by the ancients nor by modern writers, as your Magnificence will in the sequel perceive, makes me bold.
16th century England: 1579
[heading] To the Worshipful his very singular good friend, master G. H., Fellow of Trinity Hall in Cambridge.
Good Master G. I perceive by your most courteous and friendly Letters your good will to be no less in deed, than I always esteemed.
16th century England: 1589
[heading] To the Right noble, and Valorous, Sir Walter Raleigh knight, Lo. Warden of the Stannerys, and her Majesty's lieutenant of the County of Cornwall.
Sir knowing how doubtfully all Allegories may be construed, and this book of mine, which I have entitled the Faery Queen, being a continued Allegory, or dark conceit, I have thought good as well for avoiding of jealous opinions and miscontructions, as also for your better light in reading thereof, (being so by you commanded) to discover unto you the general intention and meaning...
17th century England: 1620
[heading] TO OUR MOST SERENE AND MIGHTY PRINCE AND LORD JAMES, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, KING OF GREAT BRITAIN, FRANCE, AND IRELAND, DEFENDER OF THE FAITH, ETC.
MOST SERENE AND MIGHTY KING:
|compiled Mar. 2000 by Carol Hanson (e-mail)|
The Church Fathers: Index to the Writings of St. John Chrysostom|
Includes the Letter I of the Letters to Olympias and the Letter I to Innocent, Bishop of Rome used above.
Hanover Historical Texts Project|
At Hanover College. Includes the letter from Stephen, Count of Blois and Chartres, and the letter from Frederic II used above, along with other letters from the Crusades.
Medieval Sourcebook: Heloise (1101-1164): Letter to Abelard|
Medieval Sourcebook: Conrad II: Letters to the Abbot of Corvey, 1148
Medieval Sourcebook: Constance of Brittany and Gerald of Wales on Louis VII of France
Medieval Sourcebook: Guy, A Knight: Letter from the Sixth Crusade, 1249
Medieval Sourcebook: Matthew of Westminster: Simon de Montfort's Rebellion 1265
Modern History Sourcebook: Amerigo Vespucci (1452-1512): Account of His First Voyage, 1497
The Medieval Sourcebook and Modern History Sourcebook sites (they split at about 1500) are excellent collections of period texts.
Texts concerning Becket and his murder. Includes the Letter to Canterbury from John of Salisbury used above.
Digital Dante: Dante's Works|
Includes in-frame links to the Marchand translation of the Letter to Cangrande and the Toynbee translation of the Letter to the Florentines used above.
Paston Family: letters and papers of the fifteenth century, Part I|
The e-text library at the University of Virginia has these on-line. The documents date from 1425 to about 1503.
Richard III Society: Fifteenth Century Texts: The Cely Papers|
The e-text of a book: "The Cely Papers: Selections from the Correspondence and Memoranda of the Cely Family: Merchants of the Staple: A.D. 1475-1488: edited for the Royal Historical Society by Henry Elliot Malden, M.A.: Longmans, Green, and Co.: 39 Paternoster Row, London New York and Bombay 1900."
The Other Voice: Laura Cereta in Her Own Words (1469-1499)|
Contains the text of five letters, including a translation of Letter 5 to Benedictus Arsagus.
The Edmund Spenser Home Page: Online Texts|
Among the e-texts listed are the Letters to Gabriel Harvey and the Letter to Raleigh used above.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626): Texts|
Also at Hanover College and containing the "Epistle to James I" used above .
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