Medieval Writing
The History of h

The letter h is really one of the boring ones, with very little real variation over time, apart from varying treatments of the ascender which can be straight, curved or looped, not to mention short or tall. Basically, h is a letter that will not let you go wrong, whatever script you are looking at.

square capital H In the Old Roman square capitals, H has the familiar squared form.
rustic capital H In the rustic capital script, the crossbar extends beyond the vertical with a slightly more informal look.
uncial H The uncial H prefigures the minuscule form of the letter in later scripts.
New Roman cursive h In this example of New Roman cursive, the minuscule h is recognisable, although the vertical element is extended below the baseline.
In the pre-Carolingian minuscule scripts or National Hands, the variants on h are minimal, relating to the proportions of the letter and slight variations on the treatment of the ascender.
half uncial h In a 6th century half uncial script h is simple and vertical.
Corbie ab h In the specialised book script Corbie ab it has no eccentric features.
old Italian h An old northern Italian book hand of the 8th century displays the same basic form.
Germanic h This example of Merovingian minuscule or Germanic book hand has a slightly angular h.
Visigothic h The Visigothic script has added a wedged top to the ascender of h.
insular half uncial h The formal script known as known as insular half uncial also has a wedged top for h, but in this case the ascender is very short.
insular minuscule h This 10th century example of insular minuscule displays the wedged top, but the ascender is longer.
Beneventan h In this example from a developed form of Beneventan minuscule the letter h has little angular feet.
Merovingian chancery h In Merovingian chancery script the letter h contains the same elements as in other scripts, but as with other letters in this script, the body of the letter is tiny while the ascender is very tall, and in this case bowed.
old curialis h Even in the old curialis of the papal chancery, h has a familar shape, although very tall and thin.
The Carolingian scripts did not really have too much to do in order to produce a standard h.
Caroline minuscule h This version of Caroline minuscule h has a small foot on the vertical.
Caroline minuscule h A sample from a forged 12th century monastic charter has a wedged top to the ascender, as was common in English scripts of this type.
later curialis h The later papal curialis of the 11th century has retained the elongated shape of the letter.
papal chancery h By the 12th century the diplomatic minuscule of the papal chancery has not altered much. This example has a slightly wedged top to the ascender.
imperial h For once, the 12th century diplomatic minuscule of the Imperial German chancery did not add bizarre elaborations to the letter h, which is simply very tall and narrow.
In the formal Gothic book hands, the letter h becomes more angular, and often develops a fine angular downward extension to the end of the loop.
protogothic h This protogothic h from a 12th century French book hand simply looks like a slightly angular Caroline minuscule letter.
rotunda h The 14th century Gothic rotunda version of the letter retains the rounded shape.
textura h This 13th century Gothic textura h of medium grade has the fine angular lower extension.
prescissa h The very formal Gothic prescissa, displays its usual neat angular style, but in this example the lower extension of h is elaborated into a tiny spiral. Very fastidious and finicky.
textura h A relatively informally written late 15th or early 16th Gothic textura script shows a simplified and rapidly written form of h.
textura h A 15th century Dutch language formal Gothic textura h has an angular foot with a hairline extension at the base of the vertical, and a long extension to the end of the letter.
In document hands and later cursive scripts, it usually does not get any more complicated.
more about h
Histories of Individual Letters

History of Scripts
What is Paleography?

If you are looking at this page without frames, there is more information about medieval writing to be found by going to the home page (framed) or the site map (no frames).
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 25/7/2006.