Medieval Writing
Insular Minuscule - 12th Century

Script Type : minuscule

Date : This is a late example from the 12th century.

Location : This example is from England.

Function : Book hand or document hand

This document is a charter or writ of Henry I confirming lands and privileges to the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury (British Library, Campbell Chart. xxi 6). By permission of the British Library.
It is in the form of a single sheet, with seals, and is bilingual, the text appearing first in Latin, then in English. This examines the English script.
This is a small segment of the Old English text in insular minuscule script. The text is not continuous, but just represents segments from the first half of the top four lines of the English text.
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.
This example is featured in Johnson and Jenkinson 1915 and Warner and Ellis 1903.

Distinctive letters : This script is not so much a true insular minuscule as a protogothic book hand with some specific features of insular minuscule. While it is a document, the use of a style more akin to book hand than that of the English chancery has caused several authors to suggest that it was produced in a monastic scriptorium and ratified by seal in the chancery.

Certain letters of the Old English text are exactly equivalent to those in the protogothic Latin part of the document. The letters a, e and s, for example, do not have a distinctively insular form and letters like m and n are angular with feet. There are two forms of d. The letters g, f and r have forms that are distinctive to insular minuscule. The letters j, v and z do not appear, but the letters k, w and y, rare in Latin, appear in the English text. Note that while i is not dotted, y is. The specifically English letters derived from the runic alphabet, notably two forms of th (edh and thorn) and one of w (wen), all appear.

The characteristic ligatures of insular minuscule are not present, except for the dipthong æ as in


There are few abbreviations in the English text, with the main exception of the nomina sacra and the and derived from Tironian notes. The similarities and differences with the Latin script can be seen by looking at the sections with similar Old English words.





Without being any kind of expert on Old English, it is possible to pull out a few recognisable phrases. Pass the cursor slowly along the lines of text to find some. To examine the document in more detail, proceed to the paleography exercises.

Paleography exercises using Flash

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Latin text of this document

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 22/8/2011.