Medieval Writing
The History of q

The history of the letter q is not too complicated. The main variation that occurs is in the treatment of the descender, so that it may sometimes be confused with g. However, while a q may look like a g in a generic sense, usually they are fairly clearly differentiated within any individual script.

square capital Q In the Old Roman square capitals, as shown here from a 4th century copy of Virgil, Q is very round with a slightly curved tail.
rustic capital Q In the rustic capital script, Q is essentially the same.
uncial Q The uncial Q has a closed upper loop and a slightly curved descender, providing the model for the letter is later scripts.
New Roman cursive q In this example of New Roman cursive, the minuscule q has an open upper loop and a very curly tail.
In the pre-Carolingian minuscule scripts or National Hands, q is relatively standardised on the uncial form. In some of these scripts, g is a letter with an open top rather than a closed loop and a curvy descender, thus differentiating the two letters.
half uncial q In a 6th century half uncial script q has a closed loop and a long straight descender.
Corbie ab q In the specialised book script Corbie ab q is a simple closed loop with a slightly bent descender.
old Italain q An old northern Italian book hand of the 8th century displays a q with a very short descender.
Germanic q This sample of q from Merovingian minuscule or Germanic book hand has a long descender with a slight kink in the tail.
Luxeuil q This q from the variant of Merovingian minuscule known as Luxeuil minuscule has a straight descender.
Visigothic q The Visigothic script has produced a q with a descender that kinks to the left.
insular half uncial q The letter q in the formal script known as known as insular half uncial has a very short, straight descender.
insular minuscule q This 9th century example of q from insular minuscule has a long, straight descender.
Beneventan q In this example from a developed form of Beneventan minuscule the letter q has a slightly pointed descender.
Merovingian chancery q In Merovingian chancery script the letter q is simple and closed.
old curialis q In the old curialis of the papal chancery q is truly unique, with a big curly open loop and a little kinky tail. (Strange to tell, when I first learned running writing at school in the United States of America, we were taught to do capital Q much like this. When I came back to school in Australia they told me I was doing it wrong. Now if only I had known that I could have invoked the authority of the Pope!)

In Carolingian scripts q does not really change much.

Caroline minuscule q In this version of Caroline minuscule, q is straight and simple.
Caroline minusculeq A sample from a forged 12th century monastic charter is the same.
later curialis q The later papal curialis of the 11th century has closed the loop of q and extended the tail, making it look more like a capital.
papal q By the 12th century the diplomatic minuscule of the papal chancery produces a q similar to other scripts of the day, with a descender that curls to the left.
imperial q The 12th century diplomatic minuscule of the Imperial German chancery has produced a q with an extremely long wiggly descender.
In the formal Gothic book hands, the letter q resembles the basic Caroline minuscule form, becoming more angular as the script develops. There is also a tendency for the descender to become shorter and to be straight.
protogothic q This protogothic q from a 12th century French book hand is essentially the same as that of Caroline minuscule.
rotunda q The 14th century Gothic rotunda version of the letter q is neat and rounded.
textura q This 13th century Gothic textura q of medium grade looks essentially the same as the above.
prescissa q The very formal Gothic prescissa has a very narrow and angular q in which the loop is not entirely closed in order to insert a chunky foot into it.
textura q A relatively informally written late 15th or early 16th Gothic textura script has an angular q.
In document hands and later cursive scripts, q develops a few variants.
more about q
Histories of Individual Letters

History of Scripts
What is Paleography?

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