Medieval Writing and Scripts - part 2

This is part 2 of the article on Medieval writing and scripts. You can return to part 1 here. In this part we take a look at a couple more important scripts and we take an overview look at the history of writing and scripts throughout the medieval period.




Gothic Script - Was used in western Europe from the 12th through 17th centuries and still saw some use in Germany into the 20th Century. It was invented in the time of Charlemange but didn't see significant use until the 12th century. There are many variations of the gothic script and many different types of scripts were labeled as gothic. This label was applied by Italian humorists in the 15th century and it implied that the scripts were archaic and barbaric - not very refined. And over the following centuries various countries gave up on the gothic script.

Gothic Script


The Expense and Economy of writing

Let's take another look at the expense of making manuscripts. The number one cost was for the material to be written on and this could be parchment, vellum, animal skins or even papyrus. During the Middle ages there were long periods of economic trouble and warring between many countries and even within countries. This caused a lot of difficulty to procure writing materials. It is through this necessity that compact scripts were developed and the Irish were at the forefront of this. The British also adopted this from the Irish. These scripts were varations that were called miniscule. the picture below is of English miniscule.

The Caroline Miniscule also known as Carolingian

As the ancient majuscule script fell out of use there were many different areas and countries that were developing their own scripts (mostly based on the uncial and half uncial) and of all these script the one that was most successful was the Caroline Miniscule. It had a long life from around the 8th through 12th centuries and was widely adopted. It eventually developed into Gothic. Then in the 15th century it was revived by the Italian humorists in a form known as humanistic miniscule.

Humanistic Miniscule and Gothic were the two kinds of script that were in use when the printing press and moveable type were invented and both survived into the 20th century. The picture below is of Humanistic Miniscule.

Humanistic Miniscule

Fun Facts:

Paleography: is the study of ancient writing. Paleographers decipher, read and date historical manuscripts, the history of writng and the cultural contexts of writing.

Scriptorium: this is literally a place for writing and is most often used to describe a room in medieval European monasteries devoted to the copying of manuscripts.


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