|The History of d
The letter d is one which has undergone a number of variations on the basic form. The essential elements are a closed loop with an ascender, but this is subject to a range of treatments.
|In the Old Roman square capitals, D has the familiar form as used in our modern capital letters.
|In the rustic capital script, the shape is essentially the same.
|The uncial D has a low and sharply backsloping ascender.
|In this example of New Roman cursive, the minuscule d looks like a very cursive version of the modern familiar letter, written with a single curved stroke.
|In the pre-Carolingian minuscule scripts or National Hands, there are several distinctive variants on d.
|In a 6th century half uncial script it has a plain upright ascender which terminates in a small foot.
|In the specialised book script Corbie ab it is tall and upright, with the ascender extending downwards below the line.
|An old northern Italian book hand of the 8th century has somewhat similar characteristics. The length of the descending element is variable in this script.
|This example of Merovingian minuscule or Germanic book hand is similar, although the downward extension is not as prominent as in Corbie ab. One might call this a characteristic of Merovingian scripts in the broader sense.
|The other named special Merovingian book hand, Luxeuil minuscule, displays two forms of d, one of which has a plain upright ascender and is mafe from two strokes. The other has a backsloping ascender as is made from a single pen stroke, recalling the uncial form.
|The same two variants appear in the Visigothic script, but the top of the ascender on the straight form is adorned with a wedged top.
|The formal script known as known as insular half uncial also displays the two forms. The short backsloping form has a particularly fat loop and a very short, almost horizontal, ascender, making it look very like its uncial predecessor.
|This 10th century example of insular minuscule uses only the simple backsloping form.
|Beneventan minuscule also employs the backsloping form.
|Merovingian chancery script makes the ascender tall and curving and extends it below the line, as in the Merovingian book hands.
|The old curialis of the papal chancery has a similar, but plain upright, form.
|The Carolingian scripts generally used only the upright form of d.
|In a formal rounded version of Caroline minuscule the ascender is short with a small foot.
|A sample from a forged 12th century monastic charter is similar, with a neatly wedged top.
|The later papal curialis of the 11th century has exaggerated the height of the ascender, in the general manner of diplomatic scripts, but kept a simple upright form.
|The diplomatic minuscule of the 12th century papal chancery has taken the backsloping form, but exaggerated the height and curve of the ascender and made the loop tiny.
|The 12th century diplomatic minuscule of the Imperial German chancery has employed the upright form with verytall ascender and added some extraneous curls at the top.
|In the formal Gothic book hands, the upright d was rapidly replaced by the backsloping d with a very short ascender. Combined with the angularity of the letter, this forms a distinctive Gothic d, although it harks back to the uncial d and its pre-Carolingian variants.
|This protogothic d from a 12th century French book hand retains the upright form of its Caroline minuscule predecessors, with strongly marked top and foot.
|The 14th century Gothic rotunda version of the letter retains the roundness and upright form of the Caroline minuscule.
|This 13th century Gothic textura d of medium grade has the simple backsloping form with a single stroke.
|The very formal Gothic prescissa, produces a narrow, angular letter with almost no ascender at all.
|A relatively informally written late 15th or early 16th Gothic textura script shows the short, backsloping, angular, standard Gothic form.
|A 15th century Dutch language formal Gothic textura uses the same form, rather more carefully executed and with a little wedge at the top of the ascender.
|With later cursive hands, there are various treatments of the ascenders, with loops of diverse shapes appearing.
|Histories of Individual Letters
|History of Scripts
|What is Paleography?
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).