Carolingian and Gothic script
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Presentation comparing the characteristics of Carolingian and Gothic scripts.

Presentation comparing the characteristics of Carolingian and Gothic scripts.

LIBR-284 - SJSU - Fall 2010

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Carolingian and Gothic script Carolingian and Gothic script Presentation Transcript

  • Ways of Writing
    Examining Carolingian and Gothic scripts
  • Introduction
    In the year 768, Charlemagne became the King
    of the Franks and by 800, he was Emperor of the
    West. He was very interested in the growth of writing and book-making, but desired the presence of a legible, standard script that could be used throughout the empire. He called upon Alcuin, an English monk educated at the cathedral school in York, to develop this script. By 789, all books, religious texts and legal records were written in this script, known as Carolingian.
  • Carolingian Script(also known as Carolingian Miniscule, Caroline Half Uncial, Caroline Miniscule and Tours Minuscule.)
    The hallmark trait of Carolingian script is its legibility. Scribes took care to separate both individual letters and words (with some cursive convenience). It also features rounded curves and ascenders/descenders decreased in length in order to facilitate easier writing and reading.
    We have retained all of the letters used in Carolingian script with the exception of the tall “S” character.
  • Traits of Carolingian Script
    • Letters were contained within four equally spaced horizontal lines.
    • The descender of p was the same length as the bowl. The same is true for the ascender of the letter b.
    • Ligatures rt, st, and ct were rarely used.
    • A half r was used following the letter oor a capital W.
    • A mid-minim dot signified the end of a sentence, a colon or colon followed by dash signified the end of a paragraph or chapter, and commas, quotation marks and question marks were used similarly to modern use.
  • This example from the Book of Ruth shows some of the traits of Carolingian script.
    • Even, wide spacing between both individual words and lines.
    • Hierarchy of script styles.
    • Mid-minim dots as full-stops.
    • Ascenders of b and d and descender of p are equal to the height of the bowls.
    • Half r used after some vowels, particularly o and e.
    The Book of Ruth, Italy ca. 1125-
    1130. MS 1277, Schoyen Collection,
    London.
  • Hierarchy of Carolingian Script
    • Roman Square Capitals: Used for titles.
    • Roman Rustic: Used for the table of contents, chapter headings, first lines, subtitles, and at the beginning of paragraphs or sentences.
    • Roman Half-Uncial:Usedfor prefaces and the second lines of text.
    • Carolingian Miniscule:Used for the rest of the body of text.
  • An example of Carolingian Script Hierarchy
    Vulgate Revised by Alcuin, ca. 820-832. London, British Museum, Add. MS 10546, fol. 438v.
  • Proto-Gothic Script
    This transitional script was used during the 11th and 12th centuries, particularly for administrative documents.
    As the demand for university textbooks grew, scribes sought to fit more words on the page and to do so in less time. The script became less rounded and more condensed.
  • Traits of Proto-Gothic Script
    • Words often ended with an upward flick which indicated a rush of the pen to the next letter.
    • The half r began to follow letters other than oand W.
    • A small s was used at the end of words.
    • The appearance of g looked more like 8.
    • The left leg of x began to drop.
    • A t written at the end of a word had a downward flick on the cross stroke.
    • ii was written as ij to avoid confusion.
    • No ctor et ligatures were used.
  • Here is a small excerpt from a proto-gothic
    manuscript that shows some of the changing traits:
    • Greater use of the half r.
    • Left leg of the x drops behind a preceding letter.
    • Letters are narrower and more tightly compacted.
    • The appearance of g, as it grows more compact begins to look like 8.
    • Small s at the end of words.
    Excerpt from The Solid Form of Language by Robert Bringhurst (2004).
  • Versals and Conjoining
    In Proto-Gothic script, versals and conjoining became increasingly more popular.
    Versals were rounded capital letters with swelling curves and straight, narrow middle strokes.
    Conjoining or butting between letters such as be, bo, od, og, oo, pe, and po was used as a means of conserving space on the page.
  • Early Gothic Script
    Early Gothic, or litteramoderna emphasized word uniformity and more text in less space to reduce both time and cost.
    Scribes writing this script either shortened the letter height and used a narrow pen, or wrote letters using the same height and pen, but with a narrower width. The latter was preferred.
    There was no clean transition from Carolingian to Gothic script. It happened at different times throughout different countries and was a slow, unordered shift.
  • Traits of Early Gothic Script
    • The half r followed many letters.
    • The uncial d reappeared.
    • The 8style g appeared only at the end of words.
    • Ligature 5t remained, but ctand etdid not.
    • iiwasstill written as ijand tstill featured a downward cross stroke.
    • The left leg of x extended below the minim and beneath the base of the preceding letter.
    • Several vertical minim strokes began cutting to the right shortly before the bottom and ended with an upward flick.
  • More Early Gothic Traits…
    • Ascenders and descenders were decorated by splitting the ends, making scribes more artistically involved.
    • Capital letters took traits from Roman Square, Roman Rustic, and Uncial and exaggerated the lines of round strokes broader at their widest point and the vertical mid-strokes were narrowed. For large letters, the mid-strokes were often eliminated entirely so as not to appear too heavy.
    • Versals stretched serifs often wider than the letter itself, and vertical serifs extended and enclosed open areas within letter shapes. These were filled with decorations and turned into decorative lines flowing up and down the left margins of columns.
  • High Gothic Script (13th c.)
    There are many variants of Gothic scripts including Italian and Spanish Gothic (known also as Gothic Rotunda/Rotonda/Rotunda), Lettre de forme(15th c. France), Textur/Gothic textura, and LitteraBastarda (or Lettrebâtarde in France).
    These variants were developed and appeared/disappeared/reappeared over a relatively short period of time. There were so many different types, the script used often varied within cities or towns.
    We will look at the differences between some of these…
  • Traits of Textura
    • An s at the end of a word began to look like 8.
    • W, y, and z became permanent alphabet letters.
    • T featured a pointed top.
    • The uncial d became customary.
    • The angled dash used to signify ibecame a dot.
    • Uwas written as v at the beginning of a word, but as u within a word.
    • Ligature st remained in northern Europe and the British Isles, but ct and et were rare and ae had long since become e.
    • Lower halves of letters were nearly identical and identifying characteristics appeared in the upper halves.
    • Individual letters were subordinate to word design, but the angularity and uniformity of lines was very important.
    • Textura was either written with vertical strokes ending in flat bases or those with flourishing serifs serving as “feet.”
  • Here is an example of a gothic textura / textualis manuscript:
    • Vertical minim strokes curving sharply to the right and ending with an upward stroke.
    • Designs going up the left-hand column.
    • Leg of x extending behind the preceding letter.
    • Ascenders with split ends.
    • Round strokes of capital letters greatly exaggerated.
    Gothic book script, late 13th c. MS 1555. Schoyen Collection, London.
  • Traits of LitteraBastarda
    • Littera Bastarda sought to imitate textura, but not in terms of time or effort.
    • Rounded strokes regained the curves from Carolingian script.
    • The angles produced in textura by halting the pen were done in a single stroke.
    • Pointed top horns were exaggerated, especially for e and a.
    • The half r followed every vowel and most other bowed letters.
    • The ascenders were long and bent.
  • Here is a small example of littera bastarda / lettre bâtarde :
    • Letters regain some of the curves from Carolingian script.
    • Horned points are emphasized. Look particularly at the letters a, e, and c.
    • The half r is used consistently throughout.
    • The dash on top of the lowercase i bears more similarity to the modern dot.
    Excerpt from 31-line Indulgence (1454-55), Gutenberg.
  • Questions?
    E-mail me at christina.certo@gmail.com if you have any questions about the presentation or scripts described.
    Thanks!