Medieval Writing
Insular Minuscule

Script Type : minuscule

Date : This example of interlinear gloss above the Latin words in uncial script is probably from the early 9th century.

Location : England

Function : book hand

A small segment from a page of the Vespasian Psalter (British Library, Cotton Vespasian A 1, f.53r), by permission of the British Library.
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.
Distinctive letters : This example is just a little decontexted fragment with a few words of Old English entered as an interlinear gloss between the lines of Latin uncial text in a very famous Anglo-Saxon psalter. The Latin text is believed to be from the late 8th century and the gloss added later in the early 9th century in the Mercian dialect of Old English, but precise dating of these ancient relics is always under review and discussion. Only a small segment is shown as the writing is very small and the image had to be considerably enlarged to make it readable on screen. Consider it as a little taste.

The script is a fine pointed insular minuscule. Certain letter forms make it tricky to read, apart from the fact that there is hardly a single word that looks like English as we know it. Actually, there is one. See if you can spot it before you pass the cursor over the English words in the picture.

The letters n, u and r are very similar, and s tends to look like what we would interpret as r.

The letter e is tall and open, and it becomes even taller when it appears in ligature in such combinations as en or er. The letter f is broad and extends below the baseline. The letter g has the open, lightning bolt form. The letter d has a backsloping ascender.

The runic letters edh and wen appear, the former for the th sound and the latter for w, which is very similar in appearance to y.

The letters i and j are the same, the latter only appearing here in a Latin proper name.

There are no examples of k, p, q, v, x or z.

To find out more about this fascinating book, and the implications for Anglo-Saxon literacy, proceed to the paleography exercise. The Latin uncial script is examined in a different script example.

The complete text of this work can be found in Kuhn, S.M. (ed.) 1965 The Vespasian Psalter Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Script Index
Uncial script from this example

Paleography exercises for this example using Flash

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