Medieval Writing
The History of u and v

The letters u and v will be considered together, as in the medieval period they were interchangeable. In Latin there was no difference between them, and some Latin grammars refer to v as "consonantal u". How it was actually pronounced is contentious. In my school days they taught us to pronounce it like w. While English, French and Germanic languages have their own distinct sounds for v, the letter was not generally distinguished graphically at this time. This said, the basic form of the letter, or letters, remains fairly constant over time. The biggest problem comes from disentangling it from other similar letters within words.

square capital U or V In the Old Roman square capitals, both U and V have the simple angular form.
rustic capital U or V In the rustic capital script, it is asymmetrical and rounded on one side.
uncial U or V The uncial U and V are both rounded, with a straight vertical on the right.
New Roman cursive u or v In this example of New Roman cursive, the minuscule u and v both have a minimalist, ronded form.
In the pre-Carolingian minuscule scripts or National Hands, the only differences relate to stylistic variations between scripts rather than essential differences in letter from.
half uncial u or v In a 6th century half uncial script u and v are broad and squarish.
Corbie ab u or v In the specialised book script Corbie ab they sport little wedges at the top.
old Italian u or v In an old northern Italian book hand the tops of the letter curve in so as to nearly close at the top.
Germanic u or v This example of Merovingian minuscule or Germanic book hand has u and v with little wedges top and bottom.
Luxeuil u or v The specialised book hand Luxeuil minuscule has letters very similar to the above.
Visigothic u or v The Visigothic script u and v are also much the same.
insular half uncial u or v The formal script known as known as insular half uncial has produced broad sturdy letters with markedly wedged tops.
insular minuscule u or v This 10th century example of insular minuscule in the Old English language has both an angular and rounded form of the letter, but the angular form is most commonly used either as a vowel or as a consonant.
insular minuscule u or v
Beneventan u or v In this example from a developed form of Beneventan minuscule the letters are adorned with angular extensions.
Merovinian chancery u or v In Merovingian chancery script the letters u and v are fairly tall and very laterally compressed.
old curialis u or v In the old curialis of the papal chancery, u and v are rounded and tiny.
In both book hands and document hands of the Carolingian era and script types, the letters u and v are identical and have a highly standardised form.
Caroline minuscule u or v This u is from a very formal version of Caroline minuscule.
Caroline minuscule u or v This sample comes from a forged 12th century monastic charter using Caroline minuscule script.
later curialis u or v This is from the later papal curialis of the 11th century.
papal u or v In 12th century diplomatic minuscule of the papal chancery, the letter is very tiny, as are other small letters.
imperial u or v In 12th century diplomatic minuscule of the Imperial German chancery it is also a tiny letter with the standard Caroline minuscule form.

In the development of Gothic book hands, letters became laterally compressed and certain letters, including i, n, m, u and v, were constructed from repeating segments called minims. While the basic forms of u and v remained similar, they tended to become more angular and compressed. In some scripts it can become quite difficult to distinguish between the various letters constructed from minims. The difficulty is not so much in the actual form of the letter, as in disentangling the letters from other similar ones within a word. In some later Gothic book hands, two forms of the letter may appear, but these do not represent a differentiation between the vowel and consonantal form of the letter. Rather, if either appears at the beginning of a word, it is written with an asymmetrical pointed shape which we might identify with a v, but which can also represent the u vowel sound. This seems to be a usage which has come across from later cursive scripts.

protogothic u or v This protogothic u or v from a 12th century French book hand is a slightly angular version of the Caroline minuscule type.
rotunda u or v The 14th century Gothic rotunda version of the letter is very similar.
textura u or v This 13th century Gothic textura u or v of medium grade is simply formed.
prescissa u or v The very formal Gothic prescissa, displays has a u or v which is tall, laterally compressed and with blocky diagonal ends to the upright elements.
textura u or v A relatively informally written late 15th or early 16th Gothic textura script displays two forms of the letters u and v, but they do not distinguish vowel from consonant. The second form is used at the beginning of a word, regardless of sound. This example is from a Latin text.
textura u or v
textura u or v A 15th century Dutch language formal Gothic textura uses the same conventions in a vernacular text.
textura u or v
In document hands and later cursive scripts, the letters can become more difficult to decipher within the words, although the forms do not change in any fundamental manner.
more about u and v
Histories of Individual Letters

History of Scripts
What is Paleography?

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