What are the Paston Letters?

The Paston Letters is a remarkable collection of letters surviving from the 15th to the 17th century, between different members of the Paston family, their staff and their friends. In truth, the collection might better be referred to as the Paston Archive, as the medieval section contains many more types of document than just letters - though it is the letters that give us insight into the daily life and troubles of an ambitious family.

Whilst we've begun here by referring to them in the singular, the originals are not all held as a single collection today. Nevertheless, we can think of the letters as being a magnificent and unique record of a family's correspondence in a time gone by, giving an insight into Medieval, Tudor and Stuart life in away which no other set of documents does.

If you want to read a selection of the letters in a modern translation, then there are various recent publications available. You can find our selection listed in the 'References and Bibliography' section on the drop-down menu from 'The Paston Letters' heading.

The selection below is based on and developed from the 1904 edition as published under the editorship of James Gairdner. These use the original language of the letters, so can be difficult to read. However, we've attached a number of notes and are experimenting with a 'translation' system that will give access to the modern English words. There's only a few letters in place at present, but we plan to develop things over time. Click the tabs at he bottom of the pages and then hover your cursor over the words to access these facilities. We're also adding some further analytical facilities.

There is a great deal of refining to do butthere is generally enough in place for an understanding of the letter to be gained. Further help on understanding may be gained by using the University of Michigan's Middle English Dictionary. The most authoritative help is to be found in the Glossary of Norman Davis's three volume edition of the Letters; the third volume being the work of Richard Beadle and Colin Richmond.

The intent of the volunteers working on these digital version of the letters is to explore the way the computer can explore them, to focus on some key parts of the Paston story and to offer a link through to view the original letters at the British Library or Norfolk Record Office. Around the letters the site offers a range of approaches to the Paston story, from primary school material to higher levels of study.

Below are sample letters; to search the full range, use 'Search the Letters and Documents' from the drop-down menu.

William Paston to William Worsted and others

Margery Paston to John Paston, 14th December 1441?

Agnes Paston to Edmund Paston, 4th February 1445

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 6th July 1453

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 18th May 1462

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 8th June 1464

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 27th October 1465

Sir John Paston to John Paston, April 1467

Anthony, Lord Scales to a member of the Council of the Duke of Norfolk, 10th April 1469

Sir John Paston to John Paston, 9th November 1468

Lord Scales to unknown person, 10th April 1469

Margaret Paston to Sir John Paston, 12th September 1469

Sir John Paston to John Paston, 18th September 1469

Passport to the besieged on surrender of Caister, 26th September 1469

Sir John Paston to Margaret Paston, 18th April 1471

John Howard, The Duke of Norfolk, to John Paston, August 1485

Sir Edward Bedingfield to John Paston, 16th May 1487

William Paston to John Staynford, AD 1425

Nicholas, Prior of Bromholm, to William Paston, AD 1425

Sir John Fastolf to Henry Inglose and John Berney, after AD 1440

John Gyne to John Paston, circa AD 1435-6

Agnes Paston to William Paston, AD 1436/40

William Paston to unidentified lord, AD 1436

Margaret Paston to John Paston, after 1440

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 28th September 1443

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 8th July 1444

Margaret Paston to John Paston, April 1448

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 19th May 1448

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 1449

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 15th February 1449

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 28th February 1449

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 2nd April, 1449

James Gloys: A Memorandum about Oxnead and Friar Hawteyn, 1443-9

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 12th March 1450

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 3rd March 1451

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 15th March 1451

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 30th March 1451

Agnes Paston to John Paston c.1451

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 3rd June probably 1451

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 1st July 1451

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 5th November 1452

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 16th April, probably 1452

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 4th July 1452

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 20th April 1453

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 15the October, perhaps 1453

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 29th January, perhaps 1454

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 30th January perhaps 1453

Margaret Paston to John Paston, perhaps 1st February, 1454

John Bocking to John Paston, 15th May 1456

John Bocking to John Paston, 7th June 1456

Margaret Paston to John Paston, Sept, about 1459

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 21st October 1460

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 29th October 1460

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 25th November 1460

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 1st March, probably 1461

Margaret Paston to John Paston, June 1461

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 9th July 1461

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 15th July 1461

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 18th July 1461

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 2nd December 1461

John Paston Junior to His Father, probably May-June, 1462

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 3rd December 1461

Margaret Paston to John Paston, 29th April 1459

John Paston to Sir John Paston, 21st September 1472

John Paston to Sir John Paston, 16th October 1472

Sir John Paston to John Paston, 4th November 1472

John Paston to Sir John Paston, 24th November 1472

Marjory Brews to John Paston, February, 1477

T. Grigges to Sir John Paston, 2nd February 1489