Medieval Writing
Paleography Exercises
Gallican Lectionary, 7th century (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds latin 9427, f.143). All images from Steffens 1929, Plate 25.
This page is from a Gallican lectionary, dated on paleographical grounds to the 7th century. The lectionary was a codex that contained readings from the Prophets, the New Testament Epistles and the Gospels, not presented in their original Biblical order but in the order that they were utilised in the church calendar for readings during the mass. The term Gallican refers to usage in Gaul. The precise contents of the liturgy could vary somewhat between areas, incorporating local saints. This page shows parts of two readings for Easter, the most sacred feast of Christendom. The top of the page is the end of a reading from John 20 describing the Resurrection. The bottom half is the beginning of a reading from Revelation 19.
The script is of a type descibed in many old paleography books as Merovingian minuscule, but that is a very broad classification with many variants. Certainly it comes from the Merovingian kingdom, but this particular variant was particularly associated with the abbey of Luxeuil, so is designated as Luxeuil minuscule. Like all the pre-Carolingian hands, it is derived from New Roman cursive, but has developed its own peculiarities. The abbey was destroyed by Saracen raids in 732, and the script is no more seen after that date. The abbey was rebuilt, but mercifully for the readers they didn't write that way any more. Some oddities of spelling and word spacing, as well as the awkward and mannered nature of the script itself, suggest that this dates from a time when, even in the monasteries, Latin literacy was not an easy and fluid process, even for the practitioners of written culture.

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Click on each of the above to walk your way through the text. The transcript will appear in a separate window so that you can use it for reference at any time. These exercises are designed to guide you through the text, not test you, so you can cheat as much as you like.
Script sample for this example
Index of Exercises
Index of Scripts

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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 6/5/2005.