Medieval Writing

National Hands or Pre-Carolingian Scripts

  • insular minuscule family
    • insular half uncial (7th century gospel, Latin) A page from the Lindisfarne Gospels, concentrating on the insular half uncial script of the main text rather than the insular minuscule of the gloss. With paleography exercise.
    • insular minuscule (transitional) (9th century copy of Bede, Latin) A page from a 9th century copy of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, using a majestic insular script with elements of half uncial and minuscule. The section is on the death of Pope Gregory. With paleography exercise.
    • pointed insular minuscule (9th century gloss, Old English) A sample from the Old English interlinear gloss, added as a kind of rough translation to the 8th century Latin Vespasian Psalter. With paleography exercise.
    • insular minuscule (10th century colophon, Old English) The 10th century Old English colophon to the Lindisfarne Gospels, summarising the history of the making of the book. With paleography exercise.
    • insular minuscule, Irish (12th century gospel, Latin) A page from the 12th century Gospels of Maelbrigte, showing the persistence of insular minuscule as a Latin book hand in Ireland. The text is the famous beginning of the Gospel of St John. With paleograophy exercise.
    • English, late (12th century royal charter, Old English) The English section of a 12th century bilingual Old English Latin charter of Henry I to the monks of Christ church, Canterbury. The document shows the simulaneous use of insular minuscule for the English language and Caroline minuscule or protogothic for Latin in the same document. With paleography exercise.
    • English, late document hand (12th century manumissions of serfs, Old English) A set of legal documents entered originally into a gospel book as evidence of witnessed oral testimony. Interesting example of legal process as well as script. With paleography exercise.
  • old Italian book hand (7th century homilies, Latin) A particularly horrible old script that shows the difficulties of classification of pre-Carolingian scripts, let alone those of reading them, from a 7th century copy of the Homilies of St Maximus of Turin. With paleography exercise.
  • Merovingian minuscule (8th century Gallican missal, Latin) A page interpolated into a missal written in uncial script, but this page is in a tortured Merovingian minuscule which appears to have been written by a scribe having difficulties. With paleography exercise.
  • transitional Merovingian minuscule (8th century religious commentary, Latin) A segment from the Responsiones of Pope Gregory to St Augustine in England, from an 8th century compilation of mixed religious works. The script is a Merovogian minuscule that is tending towards the more regular forms of Caroline minuscule. With paleography exercise.
  • Germanic Minuscule (8th century annals, Latin) A page from the Annals of Lorsch Abbey, from 791. The script is a Germanic minuscule, and there are some annotations and additions in a Merovingian minuscule hand, for contrast. With paleography exercise.
  • Visigothic minuscule (10th century liturgical work, Latin) A page from a 10th century Mozarabic liturgical work from the monastery of San domingo at Silos, Spain. The text is from the Gospel of St Luke. With paleography exercise.
  • Early Beneventan or Lombardic minuscule (8th century religious commentary, Latin) A segment from the works of Cassiodorus, from southern Italy, in a script of the type that would morph into Beneventan minuscule, with truly wondrous ligatures. No paleography exercise as yet.
  • Beneventan minuscule (11th century exultet roll, Latin) This is a short segment from a late 11th century exultet roll, formerly in the Abbey of Montecassino. Not much text in this one, but the whole idea is interesting. With paleography exercise.
  • Specialised Early Book Hands
    • Luxeuil minuscule (7th century lectionary, Latin) From a Gallican lectionary of the 7th century, associated with the monastery of Luxeuil, with text from the Gospel of St John and Revelation. The script is a specialised variant of Merovingian minuscule. With paleography exercise.
    • Corbie ab (9th century liturgical work, Latin) A sample from c.800 from a codex formerly associated with the abbey of Corbie. The text shown is from a hymn to the martyrs Gervasius and Protasius. This is also a variant of Merovingian minuscule. No paleography exercise for this one yet.
  • Early Document Hands
    • Merovingian chancery script (8th century diploma, Latin) A diploma of Charlemagne of 781, granting land to the monastery of Fulda. Shows the horrendous Merovingian chancery script and the elaborate layout of these formal diplomas. With paleography exercise.
    • Early curialis (10th century papal bull, Latin) A small segment from a privilege of Pope John VIII, of 976, just to show the bizarre script employed by the papal chancery at this date. No paleography exercise yet. Can't face it. Did anybody actually read this stuff?
    • Later curialis (12th century papal bull, Latin) A small segment of a privilege of Pope Paschall II of 1102, showing how the curialis script adopted some forms from Caroline minuscule as it evolved into the later papal diplomatic script. No paleography exercise yet.


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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 15/6/2011.