Medieval Writing

Script Type : majuscule

Date : Late Roman, developed by the 4th century; in use until around the 8th century and continuing later for display headings

Location : Christian western Europe

Function : Formal book hand, originally for text of body of work, later for headings.

This sample comes from a page of a 6th century Italian gospel (British Library, Harley 1772, f.195), by permission of the British Library.
The text is from the gospel according to Mark. The script is uncial, and runs continuously without word breaks, although the lines are divided so as to enhance the reading sense.
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : The rounded M accompanied by the angular N are diagnostic. A has a loop rather than a crossbar. D is a simple curve with a backward sloping ascender. E and Q have shapes that we normally associate with minuscule letters. F is large and projects below the baseline.

As is usual in medieval script, I and J are identical, as are U and V, both of the latter having a rounded form.

There are occasional flourishes, as on X and G.

The rare letters K, Y and Z are not represented in this example and W is not found in Latin.

The letter forms of this script are easy for us to read as they are familiar enough. The difficulty comes from the fact that in this example, as is common but not universal, thare are no breaks between words. There are also some small letters which appear to have been interpolated into lines. Pass the cursor slowly over the first few lines to untangle the words. To examine the example in more detail, proceed to the paleography exercises.

Paleography exercises for this example using Flash

Requires at least the Flash 5 plugin

Script Index

If you are looking at this page without frames, there is more information about medieval writing to be found by going to the home page (framed) or the site map (no frames).
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 19/8/2011.