Medieval Writing

Script Type : minuscule

Date : 12th to 15th centuries. This example is from the 14th century.

Location : Italy, southern France and Spain. This example is from Italy.

Function : Book hand

This is a segment from a 14th century Italian copy of Dante's Divine Comedy (British Library, add. ms. 19587, f.58a). By permission of the British Library.
The language is Italian, except for the first line of the new section, which is Latin, and the script is rotunda. The segment is the beginning of the last canto of the Inferno.
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the segment illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : The form of Gothic script known as rotunda has similar letter forms to Gothic textura, but they are not as angular or as laterally compressed. It therefore more closely resembles its predecessor, Caroline minuscule. Letters such a u, m, n and i do not become incomprehensible rows of minims and are easily distinguished.

There are examples of conjoined letters such as od or pe, but the forms of the individual letter components are broader and more rounded than in the French of English version of the formal Gothic book script.

There are two forms of d, an upright form and one with a heavily backsloping ascender. Both the regular and the simplified form of r appear, as well as both tall and short s. The letters u and v are identical, as in Latin.

There are no examples here of j, k or w.

Abbreviations are few. Pass the cursor slowly along the first few lines for a quick running transcript. For a more detailed examination, including of the amazing illustration to the text, 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.