Medieval Writing
Old Roman Cursive

Script Type : majuscule

Date : Early Roman, 1st century AD to around 4th century

Location : Roman Empire

Function : Document hand, especially for rapidly written business documents

This example is a segment from a purchase agreement of AD 166. (British Library, Papyrus CCXXIX). (From Steffens 1929)
This example is written on papyrus in Old Roman Cursive script.

Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the photograph above.

Distinctive letters : The combination of the fact that all the letters are capitals, they are cramped together to the point of overlapping, there are no word spaces and the letters are rapidly executed makes this very difficult to read. Most of the letters approximate to familiar forms, except that there is no crossbar on A, B appears to be back to front, P is open at the top and Q is lying on its back. The letters are constructed from individual slashing strokes rather than a flowing, continuous use of the pen, suggesting that this script was really more at home on a wax tablet than on papyrus.

The segment shown, taken from the main body of the text, actually has the clearest lettering. The section at the bottom of the document where the various parties have signed the agreement is even more cramped and incomprehensible. At the bottom are two lines of Greek, not that you could tell.

As this was not a script in use in the medieval era it is included here for purely historic interest. As Dr Steffens has provided an excellent transcription, you can pass the cursor slowly along the first couple of lines just to get the general idea. After that you are on your own. Anyone who wants to study old Roman purchase agreements is welcome to them.

If you do really want to pursue this area of paleography, try the Vindolanda Tablets Online web site.

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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 19/8/2011.