THE medieval mystery surrounding the “Tremulous Hand of Worcester” is a step closer to being solved thanks to an academic from York.

The Tremulous Hand was a prolific 13th century scribe whose identity is unknown but who was given his nicknamed because of his distinctive shaky handwriting.

The medieval writer has been the subject of much debate and speculation regarding his condition, but the central question always remained: what type of tremor did he have?

However University of York historian Dr Deborah Thorpe has now shed new light on the mysterious scribe after teaming up with consultant neurologist Dr Jane Alty of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

And her study suggests the Tremulous Hand – probably a monk at Worcester Cathedral Priory - suffered from a condition called essential tremor, a type of uncontrollable shake which today affects around four out of 100 adults over the age of 40.

Essential tremor is usually more noticeable when someone is trying to hold a position or do something with their hands, such as write, which usually gets more severe over time.

Dr Thorpe said the monk was a linguistic expert of his time and interested in older manuscripts and in particular translating Old English into Middle English.

“The Tremulous Hand of Worcester is important as he is the only widely-known medieval writer with a tremor, and for his unusual interest in translating documents written centuries earlier,” she added.

“People have always been fascinated with him; but this is the first time his writing has been investigated from a joint neurological and historical perspective.

“To our knowledge, this is the first time medieval handwriting has been analysed by a neurologist with a specialist interest in movement disorders.”

The study, which was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Centre for Chronic Diseases at the University of York, is published in Brain: A Journal of Neurology.