Medieval Writing
Caroline Minuscule

Script Type : minuscule

Date : mid 9th century

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

Function : Book hand and basis for document hands

Segment from a Vulgate Bible as revised by Alcuin of York, written at Tours around the middle of the 9th century (British Library add. ms. 10646). (From Fairbank 1952 )
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This segment from a Latin Vulgate Bible shows the Caroline minuscule script in its purest and most reformed mode. Individual letter forms are standardised and the ligatures which added individuality to the pre-Carolingian scripts, but also decreased their general legibility, are largely absent. We are looking here at a precise and standardised alphabetic mode of writing, before the whole process began to diversify again. It is very easy to read, so I guess the interest is historic rather than being a paleographical puzzle.

Most letter forms would be familiar to us. The letter a has the uncial form, although written as a minuscule. The letter e is closed with an extended horizontal stroke. The letter g is mostly open, reminiscent of earlier scripts, and when it is closed it appears to be almost by accident. The letter t is short with a broad horizontal cross stroke. The letter x has a curved descender.

There is only one form of s, a tall form which sits on the baseline, while f has a short descender. There is only one form of r.

The ascenders of b, d, h and l are straight with a slightly wedged shape. The descender of q is straight.

The letters i and j are identical, as are u and v.

There are no examples of k, w, y or z.

All letters are carefully differentiated, so there is no need for dots on i, or any confusion between the smaller letters. Each letter has a single unique form. It is all so clear and neat. It couldn't last.

For a quick transcript, pass the cursor slowly along the lines of text. For a more detailed look, including at the hierarchies of headings employed, proceed to the paleography exercise.

Script Index

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