Medieval Writing
The History of m

The letter m is one which retained the same basic form throughout the period, allowing for variations on roundness or angularity and the treatment of feet. However, there can be some problems in teasing m out from a word, particularly in the Gothic script family.

square capital M In the Old Roman square capitals, M is angular.
rustic capital M In the rustic capital script, one of the slightly curved diagonal lines extends below the baseline.
uncial M The uncial M is rounded and symmetrical.
New Roman cursive m In this example of New Roman cursive, the minuscule m is rounded and simple.
In the pre-Carolingian minuscule scripts or National Hands, m follows the New Roman cursive model, with some minor variants on the treatment of the feet.
half uncial m In a 6th century half uncial script m is broad and clear, with little angled feet.
Corbie ab m In the specialised book script Corbie ab it is essentially the foot, ot perhaps more correctly just a little kink, is only on the right hand leg.
old Italian m An old northern Italian book hand of the 8th century shows a simple version of m, without any treatment of the feet.
Germanic m This sample from Merovingian minuscule or Germanic book hand is also simple and rounded.
Luxeuil minuscule m This m from the variant of Merovingian minuscule known as Luxeuil minuscule is somewhat laterally compressed, with a foot only on the right.
Visigothic m The Visigothic script has produced a broad m with chunky feet and top.
insular half uncial m The letter m in the formal script known as known as insular half uncial starts with a wedge at top left, but the bottoms of the legs are finished with only a slight curve.
insular minuscule m This 10th century example of m from insular minuscule has more noticeable feet.
Beneventan m In this example from a developed form of Beneventan minuscule the letter m displays the angular lines with marked differences between thick and thin sections that gives this script its characteristically blocky look.
Merovingian chancery m In Merovingian chancery script the letter m is extremely laterally compressed.
old curialis m In the old curialis of the papal chancery it is squashed vertically.
In the Carolingian scripts m tended to be neat and broad with little feet.
Caroline minuscule m In this version of Caroline minuscule, m is slightly angular with little feet.
Caroline minuscule m A sample from a forged 12th century monastic charter is rounded with a foot only on the right leg.
later curialis m The later papal curialis of the 11th century produces an m with a rounded Caroline minuscule form.
papal m By the 12th century the diplomatic minuscule of the papal chancery produces a similar m.
imperial m The 12th century diplomatic minuscule of the Imperial German chancery has produced a small, neat m with a foot on the right leg.
In the formal Gothic book hands, the letter m becomes more angular and laterally compressed, made up of repeating units known as minims. When these become markedly hook shaped, it becomes difficult to tell whether they are actually connected, and if so, whether it is at the top or the bottom. Although a letter excised from a word, as here, may look clear enough, when the letters i, m, n, u or v are juxtaposed, it can be difficult to sort them out. The introduction of the dot on i helped to untangle the muddle, as did the relatively common use of abbreviation in which an m, especially if following a u, is omitted and a horizontal slash is placed above the u. This, I firmly believe, was not so much to save space or scribal fingers as to increase legibility.
protogothic m This protogothic m from a 12th century French book hand is still broad and clear, with little diagonal slashes at the bottoms of two legs.
rotunda m The 14th century Gothic rotunda version of the letter m is broad and rounded.
textura m This 13th century Gothic textura m of medium grade is made up of angular minims.
prescissa m The very formal Gothic prescissa has the usual harsh angular form of this script, with straight bases to the legs.
textura m A relatively informally written late 15th or early 16th Gothic textura script shows m made of fairly untidy and uneven minims.
textura m A 15th century Dutch language formal Gothic textura m has very long and fine diagonal tops and tails to the minims, showing the style which makes it hard to tell whether the minims are meant to be joined at the top or the bottom. Despite the formality of the script, the effect is visually confusing.
In document hands and later cursive scripts, the confusion can become greater.
more about m
Histories of Individual Letters

History of Scripts
What is Paleography?

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