Medieval Writing
Imperial Minuscule - 12th century

Script Type : minuscule, a form of diplomatic minuscule

Date : from around the 11th century

Location : the German imperial chancery

Function : formal document hand

This segment is from a diploma of the emperor Conrad III of 1139. (From Steffens 1929)
Pass cursor over letters to see examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : At first glance this diplomatic minuscule script from the German imperial chancery looks quite incomprehensible, like a plate of escaping spaghetti or some knitting becoming unravelled. If you can mentally excise the long elaborate ascenders and descenders and all the extraneous wiggles, you will find that the underlying letter forms are essentially those of Caroline minuscule. Nevertheless, one is tempted to think that the lateral compression of letters, the extreme elongation of tall letters and the twiddly adornments are designed to hinder rather than aid comprehension of the actual text. Even the abbreviation marks are in the form of the double barrelled squiggle known as a papal knot.

The main things to note include that r is generally extended well below the baseline. Only the tall form of s is used. The letter t is short with a wide crossbar.

The letters i and j are not differentiated, and neither are u and v.

The letters k and w appear as beginning letters in Germanic names, but y and z are absent.

This is a bit of a difficult document to present on the screen as a full paleography exercise, as it is very large, and it is necessary to present it at a fairly high magnification in order to make out the smaller letters, so we might just stick to a modified exercise looking at some sections. This will be coming soon (maybe). Meanwhile, you can run the cursor slowly along the lines of text above for a taste. The text is not continuous, as these are not complete lines.

Paleography exercise for this example

Requires at least the Flash 5 plugin

Script Index

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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 24/10/2011.