- 1 Introduction
- 2 Early script types
- 3 "Gothic" script types
- 3.1 General description of the different script types
- 3.2 Different levels of execution
- 3.2.1 Northern Gothica Textualis
- 3.2.2 Gothica Cursiva
- 3.2.3 Gothica Hybrida and Gothica Semihybrida
- 3.3 What about Bastarda?
- 4 Humanistic script types
- 5 Hors-système script types
This page gives a short introduction into the different script types one can encounter in the medieval manuscripts of Flemish collections. The script type is one of the information fields used in our database to describe the manuscript at the Artefact level. Via a drop down menu a number of possible script types is provided, and a free text description field next to the drop down menu provides room for a more detailed definition, which is especially recommended for the Gothic script types and the Hors-système script types given the different levels of execution possible for the first and the large number of possible script types for the second category. The description of the script types on this page is chronologically arranged. For the Gothic script types the short description gives only the basic information on style and characteristics, while beneath the list more information is provided concerning the different levels of execution possible within each script type.
2 Early script types
The earliest script types that are described on this page, are the script types used during the early Middle Ages from the sixth century up until the beginning of the 12th century. These script types can have a quite standardised character, like the Capitalis or the Carolina, but others, like the Insular script, are rather umbrella terms for different types of script that have a certain shared background but took on different variations during their development.
|Capitalis||Until the 6th century, Capitalis is the most important script type for manuscripts. After a period of disuse, Capitalis is revived at the end of the 8th century during the Carolingian renaissance.
Capitalis is represented by two different types: Capitalis rustica and Capitalis elegans. The Capitalis script type of the Carolingian period is, as is the Uncialis. Both are only used to write titles, incipits or explicits in richly decorated manuscripts.
Capitalis is characterized by the exclusive use of capital letters stylistically derived from epigraphy.
|Uncialis||The Uncialis evolves around the 4th century CE out of the Capitalis script and replaces it as main script type for majuscles from the 6th century onwards.
Its origins are probably linked to the emergence of parchment as a new writing support. The smooth surface of the parchment enables the use of more rounded letters instead of the angular capitalis and cursiva used on papyrus.
The characteristics of Uncialis are:
When both Uncialis and Capitalis are rediscovered at the end of the 8th century, they are merely used as ornamental script types for titles, rubrics, incipits and explicits, and for capital letters at the start of sentences. As capital letters they will slowly start to develop into initials.
The image shows a detail of a decorated initial and an Uncialis rubric in a manuscript dating from the second half of the 9th century. This example and the second Capitalis example are found at two opposing folios of the same manuscript showing the continuity of the use of Capitalis in combination with Uncialis and decorative initials.
|Semiuncialis||Unless what the name suggests, Semiuncialis is neither a diminished form of Uncialis, nor is it derived from this script type, since it evolves in the late Antique period from the primitive minuscule scripts. When later script types emerge Semiuncialis does not fall into disuse, but rather merges with the newer script types, since it is often Semiuncialis itself that evolves into these new script types. The characteristics of Semiuncialis are:
The image shows an example of Semiuncialis dating from the 6th or 7th century. This folio that has been used as an endleaf in the binding of a later manuscript.
|Insular script||The Insular script develops in Ireland during the second half of the 5th century within the context of Christianisation and the emergence of a written culture situated in the Irish monasteries. The Insular script quickly expands to Britain and Continental Europe due to the missionary zeal of Irish and Anglo-Saxon monks, who are responsible for the foundation of a number of important abbeys (Luxeuil, Bobbio, Sankt Gallen, Echternach, Fulda) that continue to produce codices in Insular script until the 8th century and the emergence of the Carolina script.
Although three different types of Insular script exist, there are a number of common characteristics of which the most important is the extensive use of abbreviations and ligatures. The importance of the Insular abbreviations is shown in the continuation of their use in other script types throughout the Middle Ages.
The Round Insular script evolves out of the Semiuncialis while absorbing some characteristics of the Capitalis and Uncialis script types and contains typical round forms, while the Insular minuscule has more angular curves, long descenders and wedge-formed ascenders. The Insular capital is a decorative script type with square shapes and wedge-shaped lines for both horizontal and vertical lines.
An example of Insular Script dating from the first half of the 9th century. The manuscript was produced in the abbey of Echternach, one of the foundations of the Anglo-Saxon missionary Willibrord.
|Praecarolina||Out of the New Cursive script, that emerged during the late Classical period, evolves in the 6th century the Merovingian script, a documentary script used by the chancery of the Merovingian kings. This script is characterised by its elongated letters pressed against each other, its various ligatures, and its rather decorative abbreviation signs.
Together with the Insular script type, it serves as the source from which a number of regional Frankish bookhand script types develop. Although a number of differences exist between the bookhands of the West-Francian, Burgundian, Swiss and East-Francian abbeys, these script types are commonly denominated as Praecarolina, since they slowly but steadily evolve into the Carolina script type.
|Carolina||The exact place of birth of the Carolina script is still debated, but it probably emerged simultaneously in different monastical scriptoria during the end of the 8th century out of the different Praecarolina script types. Thanks to the centralising effect of the Carolingian empire, possibly combined with the influence of the Palace School in Aachen, it quickly evolved into a standardised script type and can be regarded as completely developed by the first quarter of the 9th century. Carolina's harmonious appearance, formal clarity and systematic compositions stand out against its precursors. The Carolina script type remains the dominant script type for manuscripts until the first half of the 12th century.
The Carolina script type as a number of characteristics:
The Carolina script type evolves during the following centuries, especially during the 11th and 12th century when it slowly evolves into the Praegothica script type.
The second image shows an example of a late Carolina script in a manuscript dating from the 12th century. This Carolina script already shows the characteristics mentioned for the Praegothica script type, although it has still retained enough of its round letter forms to be defined as a Carolina.
3 "Gothic" script types
Starting in the 11th-12th century, the Carolina script type starts to slowly but steadily evolve and to give way to the emergence of the Gothic script types. These script types will be the dominant script types until the 16th century, although in the 15th century, the Humanistic movement will rediscover the Carolina script type and recycle it as their Humanistic script type. During the second half of the 15th century Humanistica-like script types will slowly start to appear in Flanders, but due to the contemporary rise of book printing, they will never grow into a very popular script types. Humanistic script types are described under the next heading.
3.1 General description of the different script types
|Praegothica||The Praegothica script type evolves out of the Carolina as an intermediairy script type between the Carolina and the "real" Gothic script types. During the second half of the 11th century and the first quarter of the 12th century a number of changes occur almost simultaneously on different places throughout Western Europe and Britain:
The Praegothica can not be regarded as a well-defined script type since there are regional and chronological variations that possess in one way or another the above-mentioned characteristics.
The second image shows the remarkable difference between the Carolina script type on the left side and the Praegothica script type on the right side of two opposing folio's in the same manuscript.
3.1.2 Gothica Textualis and Semitextualis
|Northern gothica textualis||The Northern Gothica Textualis can be defined as fully developed around the end of the 12th or the beginning of the 13th century. The defining characteristics of the Northern Gothica Textualis are:
These characteristics are not different from those of its precursors, they are important to compare Textualis with the contemporary script types.
Textualis can be regarded as the culminating point of the evolution made by the Praegothica script type.
Remarkable for the Northern Gothica Textualis is the boldness of the script. Written with a broad nib, it contains a combinatiion of bold straight lines and extremely fine, sometimes almost invisible, hairlines connecting the straight strokes.
|Southern gothica textualis||The Southern Gothica Textualis script type has also evolved out of the Praegothica, or rather Carolina script type and appears around the same time as the Northern Gothica Textualis, but it contains a number of different characteristics:
The Southern Gothica Textualis script type was used in its most defining form in Italy. Other regions and countries that used this script type are Spain, Portugal and the South of France although their form of Southern Gothica Textualis is not that clearly defined as their Italian counterpart.
Both images show examples of Southern Gothica Textualis of Italian origin. The first example comes from a 13th century manuscript, while the second example dates from the 15th century. This example clearly shows the rounder and broader character of the Southern Gothica Textualis.
|Gothica Semitextualis||The Gothica Semitextualis has only characteristic that differs it from the two Gothica Textualis script types:
Gothica Semitextualis was mostly used in Italy, but there are a number of manuscripts from Southern or Northern Netherlandish origin in our Flemish collections that are written in Gothica Semitextualis. To distinguish a real Semitextualis script type from a rapidly executed Textualis with short upper bows for the letter a, one has to make sure the single-compartment letter a is systematically used throughout the whole text.
3.1.3 Gothica Cursiva and its derivates
The Cursiva script type emerged in the 13th century due to a higher demand for books and subsequent the need to produce books more rapidly than before. Based on the administrative and documentary cursive scripts the Cursiva script type and its derivates form an intermediate script type family between these and the Textualis script types. All script types of this family have a number of common characteristics that are the result of the current execution of the writing:
- Less emphasis on the verticality of the script, the script is broader and lacks the lateral compression of Gothica Textualis,
- The ascenders and descenders tend to become longer and reach beyond the headline and the baseline, especially the extension of the f and the straight s beyond the baseline is remarkable,
- Wider distances between the lines due to the longer ascenders and descenders,
- More open script type which gives way to the use of single column layout,
- Sometimes a tendency to slope to the right, while early Cursiva tends to slope to the left, and high end manuscripts written in Cursiva do not show any sloping in the script,
- Use of multiple letter forms depending on the location of the letter within the word or depending on the previous or following letter
- The presence of loops, single-compartment letter a (except the English Gothica cursiva antiquior), ligatures that combine two or even three letters
- Simplified ductus, the scribe makes multiple strokes without lifting the pen. Early Cursiva script is often executed with a narrow nib pen, using pressure on the nib to produce bold strokes.
- Use of majuscules or littera notabilior (special letter form) as the first letter of certain words.
|Gothica Cursiva Antiquior||The oldest form of the Cursiva script types, the Gothica Cursiva Antquior emerges during the 13th century in England, where it will be in use as a book script until the second half of the 15th century when it starts to be replaced due to influences from Continental Cursiva and Hybrida script types. On the Continent the Gothica Cursiva Antiquior quickly evolves in the Gothica Cursiva during the 14th century. The Gothica Cursiva Antiquior has the following characteristics:
The first image shows an example of an English Gothica Cursiva Antiquior dating from the 13th to 14th century, while the second example shows a detail of a German manuscript dating from the second half of the 14th century that clearly. The script of this second example clearly shows the resemblance of the Cursiva Antiquior book script with the contemporary documentary cursive scripts.
|Gothica Cursiva||Gothica Cursiva is the most widely used book script in the 14th and 15th century and has a number of distinctive characteristics:
Since Cursiva is a rather universal script type throughout the whole of Europe, internal differences between the Cursiva script type are rather linked to the level of execution than to any type of regional differences. As it is in essence a stylized cursive script, the impact made by the individual scribes upon the appearance of the script is apparent.
|Gothica Hybrida||The Gothica Hybrida script type can be seen as a intermediate script type between the Northern Gothica Textualis and the Gothica Cursiva script types. It is characterised by:
Both Gothica Hybrida and Gothica Semihybrida are developed during the 15th century and are mostly used in France and the Low Countries. In the Northern Low Countries Gothica Hybrida is commonly used for devotional manuscripts in the vernacular language from the second quarter of the 15th century onwards when the monasteries connected with the Congregation of Windesheim (Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life/Devotio Moderna) develop and disperse their own style of Hybrida script type as a less formal counterpart to the Northern Gothica Textualis script type.
Gothica Hybrida can not be easily described in general characteristics since it can greatly vary in style of execution and, regardless of it's level of execution, still retains most of the characteristics of the Gothica Cursiva script type.
|Gothica Semihybrida||The Gothica Semihybrida script type consists of an intermediate form between the Gothica Cursiva and the Gothica Hybrida and is, as Gothica Hybrida, typical for the 15th century. It could be regarded as a variant form of the Gothica Cursiva script type since it retains most of the characteristics of this script type except for the ascenders and descenders.
Typical to Gothica Semihybrida is the alternating use of looped and non-looped ascenders within the same page.
3.2 Different levels of execution
Gothica script types were executed on different levels depending on the content of the texts, the taste of the patron, the urgency of the production, the financial resources of the client, ... Three different levels of execution can be discerned for each of the Gothica script types: Formata, Libraria and Currens, with the Formata being the high-end level of execution and the Currens being the more rapidly and mostly unadorned version of the Gothica script types. Following this short introduction, examples are given of the three levels of execution for the Gothica script types that are most common in Flemish collections: the Northern Gothica Textualis, the Gothica Cursiva, the Gothica Hybrida and the Gothica Semihybrida. All of the examples are chronologically ranged starting with the earliest examples of the script type.
3.2.1 Northern Gothica Textualis
184.108.40.206 Northern Gothica Textualis Formata
|Mid-13th century, Flemish.||Second half of the 14th century, Flemish|
|First half of the 15th century, Low Countries||Mid 15th century, Brabant|
220.127.116.11 Northern Gothica Textualis Libraria
|12-13th century, Western Germany||First half of the 13th century, Spain|
|13th-14th century, Northern France||Mid 14th century, Flanders|
|First half of the 15th century, Flanders
||15th century, Southern Low Countries
18.104.22.168 Northern Gothica Textualis Currens
|13th century, France||13th century, France|
3.2.2 Gothica Cursiva
22.214.171.124 Gothica Cursiva Formata
|Second half of the 15th century, Southern Low Countries||Second half of the 15th century, Flanders|
|Second half of the 15th century, Northern France or Flanders||Second half of the 15th century, Northern France or Flanders|
|4th quarter of the 15th century, Flanders||4th quarter of the 15th century, Flanders|
|End of the 15th century, Flanders||End of the 15th century, Flanders|
|15th/16th century, Southern Low Countries||First half of the 16th century, Flanders or Hainaut|
126.96.36.199 Gothica Cursiva Libraria
|Second half of the 14th century, Germany||First half of the 15th century, France|
|Mid 15th century, Northern France||Mid 15th century, Flanders|
|Second half of the 15th century, Flanders||Second half of the 15th century, Flanders|
|Second half of the 15th century, Flanders||Second half of the 15th century, Flanders|
|Second half of the 15th century, Northern France||1500, Germany or Central Europe|
188.8.131.52 Gothica Cursiva Currens
|First half of the 15th century, Northern Low Countries||First half of the 15th century, Southern Low Countries|
|Second half of the 15th century, Low Countries||End of the 15th century, Flanders|
|1507, Flanders||First half of the 16th century, Flanders|
3.2.3 Gothica Hybrida and Gothica Semihybrida
184.108.40.206 Gothica Hybrida Formata
|Fourth quarter of the 15th century, Flanders||Fourth quarter of the 15th century, Flanders|
|End of the 15th century, Flanders||End of the 15th century, Low Countries|
|Beginning of the 16th century, Low Countries||First half of the 16th century, Western Germany|
220.127.116.11 Gothica Hybrida Libraria
|Mid 15th century, Flanders||Second half of the 15th century, Southern Low Countries|
|Second half of the 15th century, Flanders||1467, La Bassée (Northern France)|
|Second half of the 15th century, Southern Low Countries||Second half of the 15th century, Flanders|
|1470, Trier||Second half of the 15th century, Flanders|
|Second half of the 15th century, Southern Low Countries||Beginning of the 16th century, Southern Low Countries|
18.104.22.168 Gothica Hybrida Currens
|Mid 15th century, Southern Low Countries||Mid 15th century, Southern Low Countries|
|15th century, Low Countries||Second half of the 15th century, Southern Low Countries|
22.214.171.124 Gothica Semihybrida Formata
|Second half of the 15th century, Flanders||1470, Den Haag (Northern Netherlands)|
|Fourth quarter of the 15th century, Zeeland||15th/16th century, Flanders|
126.96.36.199 Gothica Semihybrida Libraria
|15th century, Germany||15th century, Germany|
|First half of the 16th century, Southern Netherlands||First half of the 16th century, Flanders|
188.8.131.52 Gothica Semihybrida Currens
|Mid 15th century, Low Countries||Mid 15th century, Limburg|
|Second half of the 15th century, Southern Low Countries||15th-16th century, Brugge|
|First half of the 16th century, Southern Low Countries|
3.3 What about Bastarda?
The script types of high-end manuscripts produced during the 15th and early 16th century in the Low Countries and France are often described as Bastarda. Bastarda can be regarded as a calligraphic version of Cursiva/Hybrida/Semihybrida Formata or Libraria and is characterised by extreme differences between the thick strokes and the fine hairlines and the artificially embolded f and straigth s that are the only sloping letters within this overall vertical script.
MMFC has chosen not to use the term Bastarda in favor of the Cursiva/Hybrida/Semihybrida denominations.
3.3.1 Examples of Bastarda
|Mid 15th century, Lille (Northern France), Gothica Cursiva Formata||1462, Brussels, Gothica Hybrida Formata by David Aubert|
|Second half of the 15th century, Flanders, Gothica Cursiva Formata||Second half of the 15th century, Flanders, Gothica Cursiva Formata|
4 Humanistic script types
Humanistic script emerges in Italy during the last decades of the 14th and the first decades of the 15th century under the influence of humanistic scholars. The first attempts to humanistic script take already place during the 12th and 13th centuries with scribes who are restoring damage to texts written in Carolina by trying to imitate this script type as best as they can. The first humanists came during their study of the Classics into contact with the Carolingian and Post-Carolingian manuscripts that were the oldest surviving sources of Classical Latin texts. Although they were clearly conscious the manuscripts were of a medieval origin, they are surprised by the clarity and legibility of the Carolina script type. Due to this esthetich appreciation, the humanists start to adapt the Carolina letter forms for their own handwriting, especially in the copies they make themselves of the classical texts. As a result, Humanistica was in the first place regarded as the script type par excellence for copying the Classical Roman authors.
Just as the Gothica Cursiva, Humanistica emerges as a cursive script type that is only adapted to a formal book script in a later period. The first examples of Humanistica script type are autographical copies made by the humanists for their own private use or for use in a small circle of fellow scholars or students. It is only around the 1430s that Humanistica has evolved into a script type used by professional scribes for copies of scholar or classical texts, while texts in the vernacular or manuscripts for religious use are still written in the Gothica script types. During the fifteenth century the Humanistica script type will evolve into a real book script with a number of variations emerging during the 16th century.
The humanists' love for imitating the Carolingian manuscripts goes further than merely adopting and adapting the script type. The decoration, format, ruling, layout, ... of the (Post-)Carolingian manuscripts is also adapted and becomes widely used in the humanistic manuscripts. Characteristics of this typical humanistic decoration are the use of white vine stems in the extensions of the initials and the reappearance of titles written in capital letters. On the other hand, a clear influence of typography occurs which gives sixteenth-century humanistic manuscripts a very similar appearance to printed pages.
|Praehumanistica||Praehumanistica is a collective name for script types that already possess a number of Humanistica characteristics, but at the same time retain characteristics of the Gothica script types.
In the case of the example, which is a manuscript with treatises by Petrarcha, written in Bruges in the second half of the 15th century, it is quite clear that the scribe intended to give the manuscript a more humanistic look by using rounder letters, a double-compartment letter a, and a different type of round s at the end of the words. But on the other hand, the script is still very reminiscent of the Gothica script types, by using contractions, and a broader nib pen. Another characteristic which gives this manuscript a clearly "gothic" character is the use of Gothica initials instead of a Capitalis initial.
|Humanistica antiqua||The Humanistica antiqua is the real book script of the Humanist period. It was developed by Italian humanists in the late 14th century for copying Classical texts since they regarded it as the script type that was closest to their ideal of antiquity. It draws its appearance from the Carolina script type and has more or less the same characteristics. The older versions of Humanistica antiqua still have a certain interconnectivity between the letters, and does not always make use of Capitalis initials, but during the second quarter of the 15th century, the Humanistica antiqua is picked up by professional scribes who transform it further. From the 1430s onwards the interconnectivity between the letters disappears and Capitalis emerges for titles and initials. Page layout becomes more and more similar to printed pages. If decoration is used, it is often reminiscent of 12th century page decoration, with the use of white vine stems in the extensions of the initials.
Other general characteristics of Humanistica antiqua are the use of very little to no contractions, and the absence of ligatures and biting.
|foto Humanistica antiqua|
|Humanistica cursiva||The Humanistica cursiva is the cursive version of the Humanistica script type. Since it is a cursive script type, it is characterised by the use of loops and interconnectivity between some of the letters, while still retaining the readability and clarity of the Humanistica antiqua.||foto Humanistica cursiva|
5 Hors-système script types
Hors-système is the term used to describe script types that can not be placed within any of the previously described script types. There is not one type of Hors-système script, so a general list of characteristics cannot be provided.
|Hors-système script||foto Hors-système script|