Carolingian minuscule was a Latin script developed in the 8th century and mostly used until the end of the 11th century. It is sometimes called “old Roman” to distinguish it from its descendants, Carolingian minuscules.
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The most distinguishing feature of this script is that uncials are no longer used: only majuscules and minuscules are employed. The letters have been reduced in size, and both ascenders and descenders have been reduced to about half of their previous size. Carolingian minuscules were used for copying classical texts, such as the Latin classics and the Vulgate.
Development of the Carolingian minuscule
The script developed in the late 8th century. This development was due to the influence of Caroline minuscule, a script developed in the court of Charlemagne. The formation of this script is not known, although some speculation exists. It is difficult to tell exactly when Carolingian minuscules were developed because old manuscripts are in poor condition and historical documents are hard to find from this period.
Carolingian minuscules were used for copying classical texts, such as the Latin classics and the Vulgate.
What font preceded the Carolingian minuscule
Ulfilas’ Gothic script in use in the 9th century
The development of the Carolingian minuscule, therefore, is a mystery. However, it is agreed that there was no single location for its creation. Some scholars believe that it developed from Caroline minuscule, which Charlemagne introduced after he became king in 768 A.D. The Gothic script developed in the 7th century also influenced this script. Another theory is that the script was developed from cursive scripts, which were widely used and easily handled by amanuenses.
How to write Carolingian minuscule
There are many texts written in Carolingian minuscules. The script is divided into two parts: majuscules en minuscules. A minuscule is an abbreviation of “minuscule”, meaning little. Minuscules were not initially used with capital letters because it was too hard for monastic scribes to write a small letter after every capital letter. Since the script was well-known, scribes would simply use abbreviations for certain words when writing in this script.
Carolingian minuscule is a mixed script. It is a combination of minuscules and majuscules. A majuscule is an abbreviation of the word “majuscule”, meaning capital. Carolingian minuscules are derived from uncials, a script used in the 4th century and was well-known during Charlemagne’s reign. Uncials were written using only majuscules and were very difficult to write because each letter had to be penned individually.
Importance/significance of the Carolingian minuscule
The Carolingian minuscule is important because it is a script that was essential to those who copied and studied classical texts because they had to be able to read and write in the script. Arguably, the development of the Carolingian minuscule was crucial to the history of literature because it saved time and effort that might have been taken in reading and writing.
Early medieval scripts
Scripts in the early Middle Ages were either syllabic or alphabetic. Alphabets are letters arranged in a specific order, while syllabic scripts consist of only consonants and vowels. The most important difference between scripts today and those in the early medieval world is that the latter are generally not read from left to right because it was easier to write these scripts if they were written from right to left, a method called left-to-right script. This made it easier for scribes to read the writing when they were finished, rather than re-reading what they had just written.
When the uncial and half-uncial scripts developed in the 4th century, they were consonantal scripts and left-to-right scripts. The Carolingian minuscules, developed in the 8th century, also evolved as consonantal scripts but changed to the right-to-left script.
Characteristics of Carolingian minuscule
1. Carolingian minuscule is a mixed script. It is a combination of minuscules and majuscules. A majuscule is an abbreviation of the word “majuscule,” meaning capital. Carolingian minuscules are derived from uncials, a script used in the 4th century and was well-known during Charlemagne’s reign. Uncials were written using only majuscules and were very difficult to write because each letter had to be penned individually.
2. Minuscule is a diminutive of “minus,” meaning little. The letters in this script are small and sometimes hard to read.
3. There are three different types of Carolingian minuscule: majuscules, minuscules, and double minuscule scripts. Majuscules were used to write the weightier text parts, such as the titles, whereas minuscules were used for the more common words.
4. Carolingian minuscules are derived from the cursive scripts of the period since these were the only legible scripts at the time.
Spread and revival of Carolingian in the 14th century
The Carolingian minuscule is widely credited with being used for most of the oldest surviving manuscripts in Europe. In the script’s early years, most of these manuscripts were written by scribes from Benedictine monasteries. The script was also used throughout the 10th century because it was not widely known and readily accepted by readers.
Only two surviving manuscripts predate Carolingian minuscule, one of which is from Charlemagne’s court. The other is a copy of the New Testament in biblical Greek, which was copied in 723 A.D. Several examples of manuscripts follow the Carolingian minuscule, such as the Codex Aureus Cisterciensis, which was written in the script by monks who only needed to read and write Latin but were not well-versed in Greek letters. This manuscript became popular after Charlemagne’s death because it was written for him and helped expand his fame outside the borders of France.