Medieval Writing
Insular Minuscule (Transitional)

Script Type : minuscule, with occasional majuscule letter forms

Date : This particular variant dates from the 9th century and has characteristics of insular half uncial as well as insular minuscule

Location : England and Ireland

Function : book hand

A 9th century copy of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica (British Library, Cotton Tiberius C II, f.34), by permission of the British Library.
This sample of script has features of insular half uncial and insular minuscule, being a rounded and clear version of the insular family. The text is the beginning of Book II and describes the death of Pope Gregory. (See Bede 1964 or any other published version)
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : The letters n and r have both a minuscule and a majuscule form, as in insular half uncial script. a also has a half uncial form of a figure of eight on its side. There are two forms of s, one of which is a bit tricky as it looks like an r that projects below the line, while the minuscule form of r has a tendency to look a bit like an n. There are also two forms of d. The letter g is open with the lightning bolt form. t is short with a broad cross stroke.

There is no example shown of j, k, w or z.

A characteristic of insular minuscule is the presence of ligatures, in which certain letters change their form when used in combination with others. The letter e, for example, becomes raised and open in the following

en er es ex

Combinations of letters can share elements as in the following

ati est

The script may appear difficult because of the unfamiliar letter forms, but it is open and clear and the words are usually well spaced. It's really a case of getting the eye in, and it is very elegant.

The passage illustrated includes Roman numerals and an abbreviation for est which is particular to Anglo-Saxon and Irish writing. Pass the cursor slowly over the lines of text for decoding clues. And the quick quiz question is, exactly how long did Pope Gregory reign before he died?

Script Index

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