Medieval Writing
Merovingian Minuscule

Script Type : minuscule

Date : 7th and 8th centuries

Terminology : The term Merovingian minuscule has been used with varying degrees of specificity. In the broadest sense in can encompass a range of related scripts in use throughout the Holy Roman Empire up until the introduction of Caroline minuscule. This inclusive term encompasses the specialised scripts like Luxeuil minuscule and Corbie a-b, various Germanic and Lombardic variants and some transitional forms that are sometimes termed pre-Caroline scripts. This example is of the last type.

Location : France, Germany and northern Italy

Function : Book hand

This particular example is an 8th century script produced near Cologne, tending towards the Carolingian type. It comes from a mixed collection of religious works (Cologne Cathedral Library, MS XCI, f.57b), this sample coming from the Responsiones of Pope Gregory to St Augustine in England. (From New Palaeographical Society 1905)

Pass cursor over letters to see examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : In this particular version, a and and b are both open at the top, but e and g have closed loops. The letters r and s are very similar. The letter t is short with a loop on its back. As usual, u and v are identical. The ascenders of letters like b, d and l tend to be fairly tall. There are no examples shown of j, k, w, x, y or z.

While most of the letter forms are fairly familiar when they stand alone, the trick comes with identifying the various ligatures which change the appearance of letters. Some examples are

er eri and rt.

This cannot be taken as a definitive alphabet for the script, as there is some variation within the category.

The are numerous abbreviations in the text, and many words are broken in the middle by line breaks. This all adds to the fun of decoding the script.

Just to make it hard this time, pass the cursor slowly down the rows of text and try to untangle the words. For a more detailed look, continue to the paleography exercises.

The image on this page is unfortunately from a somewhat low quality original, but you can see a high quality colour scan of this page here, from the Codices Electronici Ecclesiae Coloniensis website.
Script Index

Paleography exercises using Flash

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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 3/10/2011.