Medieval Writing
Papal Minuscule - 15th century

Script Type : minuscule, a form of diplomatic minuscule

Date : from around the 11th century

Location : the papal curia in Rome

Function : document hand, specifically for use in the less formal type of papal bulls or tituli.

This is a small section from a papal bull of 1441 of the less formal variety, from Pope Eugenius IV, granting permission to Eton College to lease the lands of the college to best advantage (British Museum, add. charter 15570). (From New Palaeographical Society 1906)
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This script is truly exquisite. No, it's quite alright to stop being scientific for a minute and say you like something. Compared to the papal minuscules of earlier centuries, the letters are beautifully proportioned and lack the more extreme calligraphic flourishes. The script greatly resembles a humanistic display book hand, but the forms of Caroline minuscule are not so much being revived as, in the papal curia, they never really went away. They have just been restored to simplicity.

Little flourishes occur in the curves of g and h, and in the backsloping ascender of d. While the minuscule letters are relatively simple, there are some extravagances of proportion and form on some of the capitals. There are two forms of r and two forms of s. The letter k appears once in the date, kalendas. There are no examples of j, w, y or z.

The script retains a modified version of the stretched ct combination, as in

dicti, and of the st combination, as in existentium.

There are some abbreviations, but the papal knot abbreviation mark is not employed.

The text is a non-continous segment from the top left corner, but pass the cursor slowly along to show some words. Even if you don't read Latin, this should be sufficiently clear to work out the words letter by letter. It is possible I may get around to doing a paleography exercise for this one eventually.

In the meantime, you can find out more about papal documents from The Diplomatics of Papal Documents, formerly on the website of the Vatican Secret Archives,but now apparently only available from the Internet Archive.

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 25/10/2011.