Medieval Writing
Merovingian Minuscule

Script Type : minuscule

Date : 8th century

Location : France

Function : book hand, derived from document hand of the Merovingian chancery

The example comes from a 8th century missal which had belonged to the abbey of Fleury (Vatican Library, Regin. 317, f.136v).

(From Ehrle and Libaert 1932)
Pass cursor over letters to see enlarged examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This section is from a page added to an old Gallican missal using Merovingian minuscule script. The main text of the missal is in uncial.

Certain letters are of unfamiliar form. For example, a is open at the top, resembling cc. The letter e has a loop at the top and a protruding tongue, while f has an extraneous curly loop on its back. The letter g tends to have the open zigzag form. The letter t is short and has a loop on its back.

In general, ascenders and descenders are straight or slightly kinked, but without loops.

Long s is actually quite short, if that makes sense. It has the form of a long s, but does not extend up very high. The letter r has an open form and extends below the baseline.

The letter i is not dotted, as usual in early scripts, and there is one example of an extended i, or perhaps j, in the word cuius. The letters u and v are not differentiated.

There are no examples of k, w, y or z.

As is usual with pre-Carolingian scripts, letter forms can be changed by the use of ligatures. Some examples are ar, as, con, em, en, et, tri and tu. The tendency in ligatures is for a to be elevated to superscript, co to be simplified into a single loop, e to become taller and squashed, t to develop an extra loop and become entangled with the next letter, and i to become a long tail that extends below the line. It all makes reading it an extra puzzle.

The letters generally have a wobbly, brokenbacked look. This example is similar in style to the example of Luxeuil minuscule shown on this website, but is rather messier. Luxeuil minuscule is a subset of Merovingian minuscule, which is a diverse category, referred to, at least in part, by some earlier writers as Lombardic or Franco-Lombardic.

But never mind the anomalies of script classification. Just try to read it. Pass the cursor slowly along the lines of text for a quick transcript. To examine it in more detail, proceed to the paleography exercise. While this is an absolute shocker to read, there are some interesting points to ponder.

Script Index

Paleography exercises for this example

Requires at least the Flash 5 plugin

If you are looking at this page without frames, there is more information about medieval writing to be found by going to the home page (framed) or the site map (no frames).
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 3/10/2011.