Medieval Writing
The History of b

The letter b is one of the more consistent of form, usually readily recognisable in all scripts. Most variations relate to the treatment of the ascender, which may be straight, wedged, curly or looped, usually in a pattern consistent with similar letters such as h or l.

square capital B In the Old Roman square capitals, B is the familiar form with straight back and assymmetrical closed loops.
rustic capital B In the rustic capital script, it looks essentially the same.
uncial b The uncial B, while perhaps showing some minor variations related to the holding of the pen, is also basically the same in shape.
New Roamn cursive b In this example of New Roman cursive, the minuscule b is, to our eyes, back to front.
In the pre-Carolingian minuscule scripts or National Hands, b is generally recognisable. While it can appear as open in some early scripts, or vary between slightly open and closed even in the same passage, it rapidly becomes a simple letter with a closed loop.
half uncial b In a 6th century half uncial script, b has a slightly open form with a straight ascender.
Corbie ab b The peculiar form of the letter b is one of the diagnostic letters for the specialised book script called Corbie ab. The wide open loop and the crossbar seem to be unique to this script.
old Italian b An old northern Italian book hand of the 8th century shows the simple b with closed loop and more or less straight ascender, without any elaborations.
Merovingianb This example of of Merovingian minuscule or Germanic book hand displays the same basic form.
Luxeuil minuscule b The other named special Merovingian book hand, Luxeuil minuscule, while tending towards some elaborated letter forms, keeps things simple with b.
Visigothic b The Visigothic script puts a wedged top on the ascender of b.
insular half uncial b The formal script known as known as insular half uncial makes the letter somewhat squat and rounded, with a neatly wedged ascender.
insular minuscule b The wedged top of the ascender is retained in insular minuscule. This is a general characteristic of tall letters in this script family.
Beneventan b Beneventan minuscule displays the simple, upright closed form with the loop continuous with the ascender, as in most of the other contemporary scripts.
Merovingian chanceryb The extreme lateral compression and exaggerated tallness of ascenders, as well as the odd little crossbar, in Merovingian chancery script can make the letter a bit hard to recognise, but that is the nature of this difficult script.
old curialis b The old curialis of the papal chancery also tended to exaggeration of the height of ascenders, but the basic form is similar to that of the book hands.
The Carolingian reforms really did not have too much work to do on b, as the variations on this letter were not so great. There was a tendency for book hands to have shorter and chunkier forms of b, while document hands produced a taller letter.
Caroline minuscule b A formal rounded version of Caroline minuscule displays the nice simple b.
Caroline minuscule b A sample from a forged 12th century monastic charter shows the strongly wedged top of the ascender in English Caroline minuscule, carried over from the earlier insular scripts.
later curialis b The later papal curialis of the 11th century adds little elaboration to the letter, apart from a little wedge at the top.
papal chancery b The diplomatic minuscule of the 12th century papal chancery shows a split top to the exaggeratedly tall ascender, setting the trend for further elaborations to formal document hands in both the papal and German imperial chanceries.
Imperial chancery b The Imperial German chancery based their diplomatic minuscule on Caroline minuscule letter forms with greatly exaggerated and elaborated ascenders. This example from the early 12th century shows the beginning of the competition to include more squiggles than anybody else.
In the formal Gothic book hands, b was similar to that of Caroline minuscule, except that the closed loop became angular.
protogothic b This protogothic b from a 12th century French book hand shows how the loop changes to an angular shape with thick and thin lines and has a triangular wedge at the top of the ascender.
Gothic rotunda b The 14th century Gothic rotunda version of the letter retains the roundness of the Caroline minuscule, but includes the formal wedged top.
Gothic textura b This shows a Gothic textura b of medium grade from a 13th century song manuscript.
Gothic prescissa b The very formal Gothic prescissa, is upright and angular, with precise pen strokes.
Gothic textura b A relatively informally written late 15th or early 16th Gothic textura script shows a simple angular style.
Gothic textura b A 15th century Dutch language formal Gothic textura shows the same basic form with a slightly split top.
The book hands rapidly settled into a basic standard form for this letter. With later cursive hands, the main variation is in the differing treatment of ascenders.
more about b
Histories of Individual Letters

History of Scripts
What is Paleography?

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