Medieval Writing
Caroline Minuscule

Script Type : minuscule

Date : 10th century

Location : France, Germany, England, Spain, northern Italy, Scandinavia; this example from France

Function : Book hand and basis for document hands

Sorry but it is not possible to make this awful old photograph any better than this. If you click here you can see a colour reproduction of this page from the Bibliothèque nationale de France, but unfortunately it is not at a high enough resolution to read clearly. Well, it shows you that it is real.
The Strassburg oath in the lingua romana, from a 10th century manuscript of the chronicles of Nithard (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale MS latin 9768, f.13). (From Lanson 1923)
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This is a segment from a 10th century copy of an earlier Latin chronicle, but the section shown is not Latin, but the earliest known written example of the lingua romana, or early French. It is followed in the chronicle by the same text in the lingua teudisca, or early German.

The Caroline minuscule script of this text has letter forms that are basically familiar to us. Among the finer points, a is a simple single celled letter with no curling projection at the top. The letter s always has the long form. The letter g has the form of two closed loops, in other words with a closed curling descender, while the descender of q is quite straight. The letter t is short with a wide crossbar. The letter z is short with no descender.

Ascenders on letters such as b, d, h and l tend to have wedged, and sometimes notched, tops.

The letters u and v and not differentiated, while w, which only appears in the Germanic text, is literally written as double u.

The letter k only appears as a capital in the name Karlo.

There are no examples of j or y.

The only ligature to be found is the letter combination et in the form that would later, by some strange survival, evolve into the ampersand &.

Pass the cursor slowly down the lines of text to see a transcript, and see if it looks like Latin or French to you. For more information about the nefarious doings of the descendants of Charlemagne, and a more detailed look at both the French and German text, proceed to the paleography exercise.

Script Index

Paleography Exercises using Flash

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This site is created and maintained by Dr Dianne Tillotson, freelance researcher and compulsive multimedia and web author. Comments are welcome. Material on this web site is copyright, but some parts more so than others. Please check here for copyright status and usage before you start making free with it. This page last modified 6/9/2011.