What are the Paston Letters?
The Paston Letters is a remarkable collection of letters surviving from the 15th century, between different members of the Paston family, their staff and their friends.
Whilst we've begun here by referring to them in the singular, they 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 life in a way 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.
We're also putting a selection below from the 1872-1875 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 the bottom of the pages and then hover your cursor over the words to access these facilities. We're also hoping to add some further analytical facilities.
There is a great deal of refining to do - for instance, at present if a word has various meanings, all of these may be presented when using the 'Show Modern English' button. However, there 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.