Medieval Writing
Insular Minuscule

Script Type : minuscule

Date : This example is from the 10th century, although the script was used until the 12th century for Old English writings, and much longer in Ireland.

Location : England, in this case from Lindisfarne

Function : book hand

A segment from the 10th century Old English colophon to the Lindisfarne Gospels (British Library, Cotton Nero D IV, f.259). Image downloaded from the British Library and made accessible under a Creative Commons licence. The Lindisfarne Gospels are presented in a complete digital facsimile by the British Library here.
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : As can be seen now that we have a colour photograph, the colophon is is rubric.

This form of insular minuscule used for Old English has essentially the same letter forms as that used for Latin, with the addition of both the edh and thorn characters to represent th. This example lacks the letters k, q, w, x or z. The letter j only appears in a Latin name.

The letter a comes in two forms, closed at the top and open. Ascenders of letters such as b and l are wedged at the top. The letters r, s and f are easily confused, as all tend to extend below the baseline and are similar in general shape. The letter d has a backsloping ascender, while g is of the open lightning bolt form. While the letters u and v are diffentiated, in that there is a rounded and an angular form, the angular form seems to be used in most cases as either vowel or consonant.

The trickiest ligature is the dipthong ae, which is written as an e with a little hook on the back.

The Tironian et character appears as an abbreviation for and.

Pass the cursor over the first few lines for a quick transcript. To examine this text in more detail, and to find out what it all means, proceed to the paleography exercises.

Script Index

Paleography exercises for this example using Flash

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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 21/3/2014.