Medieval Writing
Half Uncial

Script Type : minuscule, with occasional majuscule letter forms

Date : Late Roman, developed by the 4th century; in use until around the 8th century.

Location : Christian western Europe

Function : Formal book hand.

This is a sample from the writings of St Hilarius of Poitiers, dating from 509-10 AD (Rome, Archivio di S. Pietro, D.182. (From Steffens 1929)
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : The trick letter in this alphabet is s, which looks like r in our standard letter forms. The actual r is slightly different with a hook rather than a curved top, so they are distinguishable. Certain letters tend to a majuscule form, particularly n but also f and x. There are two forms of e, one of which projects above the line of other letters and has an open top. a is open and there is a tendency for b, d, p and q to be the same. g is open and angular, resembling a lightning bolt symbol. u and v are identical.

There are no examples on this page of j, k or y.

There are some examples of ligatures involving the letters u, e and i.

There is some variation in the forms of letters in half uncial from different areas. This example is very neat and formal, so is not too hard to read once you get the hang of the unusual letter forms. The biggest problem is the lack of punctation and word spacing.

The only examples of abbreviations in this segment is the nomina sacra deum, and isrl for israhel.

Pass the cursor along the first few lines get a little sample from the text. For further detail, proceed to the paleography exercises.

Script Index

Paleography exercises using Flash

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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 20/8/2011.