Medieval Writing
Old Italian Book Hand

Script Type : minuscule

Date : 7th century

Location : northern Italy, Milan

Function : book hand

The example comes from a 7th century copy of the Homilies of St Maximus of Turin (Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, C.98, parte inferiore, f.89). (From Steffens 1929)

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

Distinctive letters : This script illustrates a number of difficulties with pre-Carolingian scripts, and especially with the concepts of National Hands. This script is from northern Italy, from the area of Milan, so it would seem logical that it might be defined as Lombardic minuscule. However, some paleographers have argued that the term Lombardic should be used for the precursors of the Beneventan script, which is from southern Italy rather than the northern area known as Lombardy. Given that the Lombards were most likely largely illiterate anyway, the whole discussion becomes pointless. The script really fits in to the diverse and broad category called Merovingian minuscule, which has many variants. I think I might just stick with Dr Steffens here and call it an old Italian book hand.

The most distinctive letters are a, which is open at the top, e which is tall and open with a long central tongue, f which has a split top and a long descender, g which has the open lightning bolt form, and s which is relatively short and tends to resemble an r.

In general, ascenders are tall with very narrow loops, but the vertical component of d also extends below the baseline. The letters q and p have straight descenders. The letter x has an arm extended into a long diagonal descender. The letter t is short with a long horizontal crossing at the top.

There is no difference between u and v. The letter j, here shown appearing at the beginning of a word, is differentiated from i by having been written as a capital, although i can also appear as a capital at the beginning of a word.

There are no examples shown of k, w or z.

If you run the cursor over the individual letters, they may not seem too difficult, but the whole thing is made more complex by the numerous ligatures which seem to almost tie some of the letters into knots. Find festiuitatem in the first line of the text sample to see what I mean. In fact, run the cursor slowly over the lines of text and try to figure it out. For more details, check out the paleography exercises.

Script Index

Paleography exercises for this example

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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 3/108/2011.