Pointy Fingers


( Wolfson Centre Archive, Birmingham Halesowen Court Rolls, MS 346278 )

Pointy fingers are interesting and they appear quite frequently along the margins of manorial court rolls. As far as I know nobody has really looked at the little doodles in the margins of manorial documents. They are certainly not as engaging or colourful or plentiful as the marginal illuminations found in other medieval manuscripts, but they are still worthy of some research. Occasionally one can find sketches of faces or doodles around individual letters. The feeling conveyed is that of a scribe bored to tears sitting through convoluted cases in the manor court. However pointy fingers are very deliberately placed. They usually ‘point’ at cases involving land or status.

They are also often in a different colour than the remainder of the manuscript, which indicates that they were at least sometimes added at a different time to the original entry. Like some of these ones, all found in the court rolls of the  manor of Halesowen.


( Wolfson Centre Archive, Birmingham Halesowen Court Rolls, MS 346273 )

Or this one. WP_20160726_11_58_50_Pro

( Wolfson Centre Archive, Birmingham Halesowen Court Rolls, MS 346263 )

I suspect that some of these point fingers were inserted when inquiries into specific cases or the status of individuals or their holdings had been ordered by the court. Occasionally in such inquiries it is stated that the court rolls had been consulted to resolve the case. Pointy fingers might thus have been used as easy reference points by those searching the records.