Medieval Writing

Script Type : minuscule

Date : 12th to 15th centuries. This example is from the early 12th century.

Location : Italy, southern France and Spain, although this example was produced in the Holy Land.

Function : Book hand

This sample is from the Melissande Psalter (British Library, Egerton 1139, f.210), made between 1131 and 1143 in Jerusalem. By permission of the British Library.
The script is of an Italian rotunda form, while the miniatures in the book were apparently by a Greek artist. This section is a poem to St Mary Magdalen. The enlarged and slightly separated capital letters at the beginning of each line are a tradition of verse writing in the middle ages.
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : The heading on the top line is in uncial script while the initial letters of each line are in rustic capitals. The main text is in the modified Gothic script known as rotunda, which never became as angular and compressed as that of northern Europe. In this early example there is very little difference in the letter forms from those of Caroline minuscule, except that some of the curves of letters like m, n, o, p and u have become slightly angular.

The letter d is upight, as in Caroline minuscule, rather than the backsloping Gothic form.

The letters u and v are identical.

The letter s is usually tall, while t is short.

There are no examples of h, j, k, w, y or z in this example.

There are many abbreviations in the text.

Pass the cursor slowly along the first few lines to decode them. To look at the example in more detail, proceed to the paleography exercises.

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 4/10/2011.