Medieval Writing
Insular Half Uncial

Script Type : minuscule, with occasional majuscule letter forms

Alternative Name : insular majuscule

Date : post-Roman era to the 8th century

Location : England and Ireland

Function : Formal book hand, especially used for significant liturgical books such as gospels.

This sample comes from the 7th century Lindisfarne Gospels (British Library, Cotton Nero DIV, f.5), by permission of the British Library. These images are made available for use by the British Library under a Creative Commons licence. The Lindisfarne Gospels are presented in a complete digital facsimile by the British Library here.
The Latin text is an insular half uncial, very formal and rounded. The 10th century Old English gloss between the lines is a pointed insular minuscule.
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This example looks only at the insular half uncial of the Latin text. The pointed insular minuscule of the Old English gloss with be examined elsewhere.

The letters r and n each have two forms, one of which is basically a majuscule shape. The minuscule versions of these letters are very similar and easily confused. The rules for using the different forms do not appear to be clearly defined; look at the two versions of the words nobis and sunt in the example.

The letter d also has two forms, one with an upright and the other with a backsloping ascender. The letter s mainly appears in the short and curly form, but the tall s is present.

The letter a has curled extensions top and bottom making it nearly into a figure of eight on its side. The letter f is large and projects below the baseline. The letter g has the open lightning bolt form. The letters u and v are identical. Letters with ascenders such as l and b have strongly wedged tops. The letter t is short with a long horizontal crossbar. The rare letters are not represented in this example.

Although the script is rounded and widely spaced, certain letter combinations run together. For example ti rather resembles an a without the curly extensions, while these extensions on a tend to connect it to the next letter.

Pass the cursor slowly along the Latin text to clarify these features. For a more detailed examination, proceed to the paleography exercises.

Paleography exercises using Flash

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Script Index

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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 6/3/2014.