Paleography Latin Writing
hand letters century uncial exempla written cursive tablets found capital
PALEOGRAPHY LATIN WRITING - in writing a history of Latin palaeography, it will be first necessary, as with the Greek, to follow its development in two main divisions - the set book-hand and the cursive. Under the former head will be first ranged the capital, uncial, and half-uncial hands found in early MSS.; on the other side will be traced the course of Roman cursive writing in the waxen tablets and papyri. Next will be shown how this cursive hand was gradually reduced into forms of writing peculiar to different countries on the continent of Europe (reserving for separate examination the development of the Irish and English schools), and finally how, in the revival of learning under Charlemagne, the reformed Caroline minuscule. became the standard on which the writing of all the -Western nations was finally modelled.
Capital. - The oldest form of book-writing which we find employed in Latin MSS. is in capitals ; and of these there are two kinds - the square and the rustic. Square capitals may be defined as those which have their horizontal lines at right angles with the vertical strokes ; rustic letters are not less accurately formed, nor, as their title would seem to imply, are they rough in character, but, being without the exact finish of the square letters, and being more readily written, they have the appearance of greater simplicity. In capital writing the letters are not all of equal height ; F and L, and in the rustic sometimes others, as B and R, overtop the rest. In the rustic the forms are generally lighter and more slender, with short horizontal strokes more or less oblique and wavy. Both styles of capital writing were obviously borrowed from the lapidary alphabets employed under the empire. But it has been observed that scribes with a natural conservatism would perpetuate a style some time longer in books than it might be used in inscriptions. We should therefore be prepared to allow for this in ascribing a date to a capital written MS., which might resemble an inscription older by a century or more. Rustic capitals, on account of their more convenient shape, came into more general use ; and the greater number of the early MSS. in capitals which have survived are consequently found to be in this character.
In the Exempla Codicum Latinorum of Zangemeister and Wattenbach are collected specimens of capital writing, which are supplemented by other facsimiles issued by the Palwographical Society. The earliest application of the rustic hand appears in the papyrus rolls recovered from the ruins of Herculaneum (Exempla, tabb. 1-3), which must necessarily be earlier than 79 A.D. In some of these specimens we see the letters written with a strong dashing stroke ; in others they are mixed with cursive and uncial forms. In the vellum MSS. the writing in the earliest instances is of a perfectly exact ,character. MSS. of this class were no doubt always regarded as choice works. The large scale of the writing and the quantity of material required to produce a volume must have raised the cost to a height which would be within reach of only the wealthy. Such are the two famous copies of Virgil in the Vatican - the Codex Romanus, adorned with paintings, and the Codex Palatinus (Exempla, tabb. 11, 12 ; Pal. Soc., pls. 113-115), which may be even as early as the 3d or 4th century, for in the regularity of their letters they resemble very nearly the inscriptions of the 1st and 2d century. There are no marks of punctuation by the first hand; nor aro thorn cniasWd initin.l 1p.t.tprR In a third and younger MS. of Virgil, the Schedru Vaticanm (Exempla, tab. 13; Pal. Soc.., pls. 116, 117), the imitation of the lettering of inscriptions is far less apparent, and the writing may be said to have here settled down into a good working book hand; but, like the MSS. just noticed, this volume also was doubtless prepared for a special purpose, being adorned with well-finished paintings of classical style. In assigning dates to the earliest MSS. of capital-writing, one feels the greatest hesitation, none of them bearing any internal evidence to assist the process. It is not indeed until the close of the 5th century that we reach firm ground, - the Medicean Virgil of Florence having in it sufficient proof of having been written before the year 494. The writing is in delicately-formed letters, rather more spaced out than in the earlier examples (Exempla, tab. 10 ; Pal. Soc., pl. 86). Another ancient MS. in rustic capitals is the Codex Bembinus of Terence (Exempla, tabb. 8, 9 ; Pal. Soc., pl. 135), a volume which is also of particular interest on account of its marginal annotations, written in an early form of small hand. Among palimpsests the most notable is that of the Cicero In Yerrem of the Vatican (Exempla., tab. 4).
Of MSS. in square capitals the examples are not so early as those in the rustic character. Portions of a MS. of Virgil in the square letter are preserved in the -Vatican, and other leaves of the same are at Berlin (Exempla, tab. 14). Each page, however, begins with a large coloured initial, a style of ornamentation which is never found in the very earliest MSS. The date assigned to this MS. is therefore the end of the 4th century. In very similar writing, but not quite so exact, arc some fragments of another MS. of Virgil in the library of St Gall, probably of a rather later time (Exempla, tab. 14a; Pal. Soc., pl. 208).
In the 6th century capital-writing enters on its period of decadence, and the examples of it become imitative. Of this period is the Paris Prudentius (Exempla, tab. 15; Pal. Soc., pls. 29, 30) in rustic letters modelled on the old pattern of early inscriptions, but with a very different result from that obtained by the early scribes. A comparison of this volume with such MSS. as the Codex Ron-Janus and the Codex Palatinus shows the later date of the Prudentius in its widespread writing and in certain inconsistencies in forms. Of the 7th century is the Turin Sedulius (Exempla, tab. 16),a MS. in which uncial writing also appears - the rough and misshapen letters being evidences of the cessation of capital writing as a hand in common use. The latest imitative example of an entire MS. in rustic capitals is in the Utrecht Psalter, written in triple columns and copied, to all appearance, from an ancient example, and illustrated with pen drawings. This MS. may be assigned to the beginning of the 9th century. if there were no other internal evidence of late date in the !1S., the mixture of uncial letters with the capitals would decide it. In the Psalter of St Augustine's, Canterbury, in the Cottonian Library (Pal. Soc., pl. 19 ; Cat. Anc. MSS., ii. pls. 12, 13), some leaves at the beginning are written in this imitative style early in the 8th century; and again it is found in the Benedictional of Bishop iFthelwold (Pal. Soc., pl. 143) of the 10th century. In the sumptuous MSS. of the Carlovingian school it was continually used ; and it survived for such purposes as titles and colophons, for some centuries, usually in a degenerate form of the rustic letters.
Uncial. - Uncial writing differs from the capital in adopting certain rounded forms, as O. E h cr), and in having some of its letter's rising above or falling below the line. The origin of the round letters may be traced in some of the Roman cursive characters as, seen in the wall inscrip- tions of Pompeii and the waxen tablets. A calligraphic development of these slighter forms resulted in the firmly-drawn letters which are seen in the early vellum MSS. The most ancient of these may without much hesitation be assigned to the 4th century, and in them the writing is so well-established that one might well believe that it had been already practised for some generations. On the other hand, a calligraphic style may be stimulated into quick development by various causes, - caprice, fashion, or even the substitution of a different writing material, as vellum for papyrus. Uncial writing lasted as an ordinary bookhand into the 8th century, when it was supplanted by the reformed small writing of the Carlovingian school ; but, like the capitals, it survived for sonic time longer as an ornamental hand for special purposes.
The Exempla of Zangemeister and Wattenbach, so often quoted above, contains a series of facsimiles which illustrate the progress of uncial writing throughout the period of its career. The letter Cl) has been adopted by the editors as a test letter, in the earlier forms of which the last limb is not curved or turned in. The letter E also in its earlier and purer form has the cross stroke placed high. But, as in every style of writing, when once developed, the earliest examples are the best, being written with a free hand and natural stroke.
The Gospels of Vercelli (Exempla, tab. 20), said to have been written by the hand of Eusebius himself, and which may indeed be of his time, is one of the most ancient uncial MSS. Its narrow columns and pure forms of letters have the stamp of antiquity. To the 4th century also is assigned the palimpsest Cicero Dc Republica in the Vatican (Exempla, tab. 17 ; Pal. Soc., pl. 160), a MS. written in fine large characters of the best type; and a very ancient fragment of a commentary on an ante-Hieronymian text, in three columns, has also survived at Fulda (Exempla, tab. 21). Among the uncial MSS. of the 5th centuiv of which good photographic facsimiles are available are the two famous codices of Livy, at Vienna and Paris (Exempla, tabs. 18, 19; Pal. Soc., pls. 31, 32, 183), and the Gains of Verona (Exempla, tab. 24). The latter MS. is also of special interest, as it contains abbreviations and has certain secondary forms amongst its letters. To distinguish between uncial MSS. of the 5th and 6th centuries is not easy, for the character of the writing changes but little, and there is no sign of weakness or wavering. It may, however, be noticed that in MSS. which are assigned to the latter century there is rather less compactness, and occasionally, as the century advances, there is a slight tendency to artificiality.
IAMTIButtAyLtakelcNO R.ANIIA5NeculARisKo NAQNNAWKOSIENOX Latin Uncial, 5th or 6th century.
(tam tibi illy qnae igno rantia saecularis bo na opinatur ostendam) When the 7th century is reached there is every evidence that uncial writing has entered on a new stage. The letters are more roughly and carelessly formed, and the compactness of the earlier style is altogether wanting. From this time down to the age of Charlemagne there is a continual deterioration, the writing of the 8th century being altogether misshapen. A more exact but imitative hand was, however, at the same time employed, when occasion required, for the production of calligraphic MSS., such as liturgical books. Under the encouragement given by Charlemagne to such works, splendid uncial volumes were written in ornamental style, often in gold, several of which have survived to this day (Cat. Anc. MSS., ii. pls. 39-41).
//a/f-Uncial. - A very interestincr° style of writing, and for the study of the development of the set minuscule hand of later periods a most important one, is that to which the name of half-uncial has been given. It lies between cursive and uncial, and partakes of the character of both. As early apparently as the 4th century, a set style of small writing, partly following in formation the characters found in the Roman cursive writing of the Ravenna and other documents on papyrus, and in some of its letters betraying an uncial origin, is found in glosses or marginal notes of early MSS. The limited space into which the annotations had to be compressed compelled the writer to abandon the free style of the ordinary cursive hand, and at the same time a mere reduction of capital or uncial letters would have been too tedious a process to adopt. A middle course was followed, and a neat minute hand, half-set half-current, was used, just as in the present day it is no uncommon practice to write a so-called printing hand for similar purposes. The earliest example of this hand appears to be in the marginal directions for the painter in the Quedlinburg fragment of an illustrated early Italic version of the Bible (see Sehum in Theolog. Studien u. Kritiken, 1876). In these notes appear 1), d, m, a as fully developed minuscules ; r is represented by 1-2, half way between the uncial and the minuscule, and s is r. Again in the notes by the Arian bishop Maximin (Exempla, tab. 22), of the 5th century, the same style of writing appears, - with some variations, however, in individual letters, as in g and r, which some near to minuscule shapes. In the Codex Bembinus pf Terence (Exempla, tab. 8) there are many glosses giving unple opportunity for studying the hand, which is here in small and well-formed character. From this specimen, tad also from the notes in the Itala of Fulda (Exempla, :ab. 21), a complete alphabet of set minuscule letters may .De selected, as written probably early in the 6th century. Rather later and more uncial in form are the glosses in :he Medicean Virgil (Exempla, tab. 10).
This set form of small writing, then, was, as it appears !rom the examples quoted above and from many others 'see the enumeration in Wattenbach, Einleitung 2?11' Lat. Nix° p. 12), in pretty general use for the purposes of annotation ; and it was but natural that it should also come o be adopted in MSS. for the text itself. The introluction into the text of uncial-written MSS., at an early late, of forms of letters borrowed from cursive writing is Ilustrated by the Verona Gains (Exempla, tab. 24) of the Ali century, in which, besides the ordinary uncial shapes, l is also found as a minuscule, r as the transitional (1, and s as the tall letter r. Again, in the Florentine Pandects )f the 6th century, one of the scribes writes a hand which ;ontains a large admixture of minuscule forms (Exempla, ;ab. 54). And some fragments of a Greco-Latin glossary m papyrus, of which facsimiles have been published (Comnent. Soc. Gottingen., iv., 1820, p. 156; Rhein. Museum, v., 1837, p. 301), likewise contain, as secondary forms of racial m, r, and s : T71, p, r. From these few instances it is ieen that in uncial MSS. of a secular nature, as in works 'elating to law and grammar, the scribe did not feel himself •estricted to a uniform use of the larger letters, as he would )e in producing a church book or calligraphic MS. The adaptation then of a set small hand, very similar to, and n some particulars identical with, the annotating hand 6bove referred to, is not surprising. The greater convenimce of the small hand in comparison with the larger uncial s obvious, and the element of calligraphy which was nfused into it gave it a vitality and status as a recognized )ook-hand. Thus we have a series of MSS., dating from he end of the 5th century, which are classed as examples half.uncial writing, and which appear to have been vritten in Italy and France. The MS. of the Fasti Con-. ;ulares, at Verona, brought down to 494 A.D. (Exempla, ab. 30), is in this hand, but the earliest MS. of this class o which a more approximate date can be given is the --Mary of St Peter's at Rome, which was written in or )efore the year 509 or 510 (Exempla, tab. 52 ; Pal. Soc., d. 136) ; the next is the Sulpicius Scverus of Verona, of 317 A.D. (Exempla, tab. 32) ; and of the year 569 is a )eautifully-written MS. at Monte Cassino containing a Biblical commentary (Exempla, tab. 3). Other examples, of which good facsimiles may be consulted are the Corbie MS. of Canons, at Paris (Exempla, tabb. 41, 42), and the St Severianus at Milan (Ad. Soc., pls. 161, 162), .of the 6th century; and the Cologne MS. of Canons (Exempla, tab. 44), and the Josephus (Pa/. Soc., pl. 138) and St Ambrose (Pal. Soc , pl. 137) of Milan, of the 6th or 7th century.
The influence which this style of hand had upon the minuscule book-writing of the 7th and 8th centuries may be traced in greater or less degree in the Continental MSS. of that period. It appears at a comparatively late time with much of its old form in the Berlin MS. of Gregory's iforalict (Arndt, Schrifttaf., 5), attributed to the 8th century. After the Caroline reform an ornamental kind of half-uncial, evidently copied from this hand, was used for particular purposes in minuscule MSS. (Pal. Soc., pl. 239).
Cursive. - For examples of Roman cursive writing we are able to go as far back as the 1st century of the Christian era. During the excavations at Pompeii in July 1875, there was discovered in the house of L. Cmcilius Jucundus a box containing as many as one hundred and twenty-seven libelli or waxen tablets consisting of perscriptiones and other deeds connected with sales by auction and receipts for payment of taxes (Atti delta R. Accademia dei Lincei, ser. ii., vol. iii. pt. 3, 1875-76, pp. 150-230). Other waxen tablets, twenty-five in number, some bearing dates ranging from 131 to 167 A.D., were found in the ancient mining works in the neighbourhood of Alburnus Major (the modern Verespatak) in Dacia, at different times between 17S6 and 1855. In 1840 Massmann published such as had at that time been discovered (Libellus aurarius); and the whole collection is given in the Corpus Inscr. Lat. of the Berlin Academy, vol. iii. pt. 2 (1873).
Although the waxen tablets prepared for the reception of legal instruments followed the system of the bronze diptychs on which were inscribed the privileges granted to veteran soldiers under the empire, in so far that they contained the deed witnessed and sealed, and also its duplicate copy open to inspection, yU they differed in being generally triptychs. Wood was a cheaper material than bronze, and the third tablet gave protection to the seals. These triptychs then were libelli of three tablets of wood, cleft from one piece and fastened together, like the leaves of a book, by strings passed through two holes pierced near the edge. In the case of the Pompeian libelli one side of each tablet was sunk within a frame, and the hollowed space was coated with wax, in such a way that, of the six sides or pages, Nos. 2, 3, 5 were waxen, while 1, 4, 6 presented a wooden surface. The first and sixth sides were not used, but served as the outside of the libelius; on 2 and 3 was inscribed the deed, and on 4 the names of the witnesses were written in ink and their seals were added in a groove cut down the centre, the deed being closed against inspection by means of a string of twisted threads which passed through two holes, one at the head and the other at the foot of the groove, round the two tablets and under the wax of the seals which thus secured it. An abstract or copy of the deed was written on the fifth page. The arrangement of the Dacian libelli differed in this respect that page 4 was also waxen, and that the copy of the deed was commenced on that page in the space on the left of the groove, that on the right being reserved for the names of the witnesses. In one instance (Corp. Inscr. Lat., iii. 2, p. 938) the seals and fastening threads still remain.
In these tablets some of the writing contains more capital letters, and is not so cursive as the rest ; but here it is the cursive hand which has to be considered. This writing in both the Pompeian and Dacian tablets is very similar, differing only slightly in some of the letters ; and both resemble the more cursive graffiti found on the walls of Pompeii.
It is of particular importance to notice that, when examining the alphabet of this early Roman cursive hand, we find (as we found in the early Greek cursive) the first beginnings of minuscule writing. The slurring of the strokes, whereby the bows of the capital letters were lost and their more exact forms modified, led the way to the gradual development of the small letters, which, as will be afterwards seen, must have formed a distinct alphabet at an early time. With regard to the particular forms of letters employed in the waxen tablets, compare the tables in Corp. Inscr. Let., vols. iii., iv. The letter A is formed by a main stroke supporting an oblique cross-stroke above it ; similarly P and R, having lost their bows, and F throwing away its bar, are formed by two strokes placed in relatively the same positions but varying in their curves. The main stroke of B dwindles to a slight curve, and the two bows are transformed into a long bent stroke so that the letter takes the shape of a stilted a or of a d. The D is chiefly like the uncial a; the E is generally represented by the old form found in inscriptions and in the Faliscan alphabet. In the modified form of G the first outline of the flat-headed g of later times appears; II, by losing half its second upright limb in the haste of writing, comes near to being the small h. In the Pompeian tablets M has the four-stroke form Iii, as in the graffiti ; in the Dacian tablets it is a rustic capital, sometimes almost an uncial cr). The hastily written 0 is formed by two strokes, almost like a. As to the general character of the writing, it is close and compressed, and has an inclination to the left. There is also much combination or linking together of letters (Corp. Inscr. Let., iii. tab. A). These peculiarities may, in some measure, be ascribed to the material and to the confined space at the command of the writer. The same character of cursive writing has also been found on a few tiles and potsherds inscribed with alphabets or short sentences the exercises of children at school (Corp. Inscr. Lat., iii. p. 962).
But unfortunately material for the study of this hand fails us for some time after the period of the Dacian tablets, and whole centuries have to be passed before we find examples. At length some very interesting fragments of papyri, assigned to the 5th century, disclose the official cursive hand of the Roman chancery of that time, in which arc seen the same characters, with certain differences and modifications, as are employed in the waxen tablets. They contain portions of two rescripts addressed to Egyptian officials, and are said to have been found at Phile and Elephantine. Both documents are in the same hand; and the fragments are divided between the libraries of Paris and Leyden. For a long time the writing remained undeciphered, and Champollion-Figeac, while publishing a facsimile (Chartes et MSS. sear papyrus, 1840, pl. 14), had to confess that he was unable to read it. Massmann, however, with the experience gained in his work upon the waxen tablets, succeeded without much difficulty in reading the fragment at Leyden (Libellus aurarius, p. 147), and was followed by M. de Wailly, who published the whole of the fragments (Mena. de l' Institut, xv., 1842, p. 399). Later, Isfommsen and Jaffe have dealt with the text of the documents (Jahrbuch des. gem. deut. Reelds,vi., 1863, p. 398), and compared in a table the forms of the letters with those of the Dacian tablets.
The characters are large, the line of writing being about three-fourths of an inch deep, and the heads and tails of the long letters are flourished ; but the even slope of the strokes imparts to the writing a certain uniform and graceful appearance. As to the actual shapes of the letters, as will be seen from the reduced facsimile here given, there may be recognized in many of them only a more current form of those which have been described above. The A and 13, may be distinguished by noticing the different angle at which the top strokes are applied ; the B, to suit the requirements of the more current style, is no longer the closed d-shaped letter of the tablets, but is open at the bow and more nearly resembles a reversed b ; the tall letters f, le, 1, and long s have developed loops ; O and v-shaped II are very small, and written high in the line. The letters which seem to differ essentially from those of the tablets are E, M, N. The first of these is probably explained correctly by Jaff6 as a development of the earlier quickly written and looped. The M and N have been compared with the minuscule forms of the Greek mu and ny, as though the latter had been adopted ; but they may with better reason be explained as cursive forms of the Latin capitals M and N.
That this hand should have retained so nine]] of the older formation of the Roman cursive is no doubt to be attributed to the fact of its being an official style of writing which would conform to tradition. To find a more independent development we turn to the documents on papyrus from Ravenna, Naples, and other places in Italy which date from the 5th century and are written in a looser and more straggling hand. Examples of this hand will be found in largest numbers in Marini's work specially treating of these documents (I Papiri Diplomalici), and also in the publications of Mabillon (De Re Diplomatica), Champollion-Figeac (Charles et MSS. SW' papyrus), Massmann (Urkunden in Neapel und Arezzo), Gloria (Paleografia), as well as in _Par.-8. of Ancient Charters in the British Museum, part iv., 1878, Nos. 45, 46, and in the Facsimiles of the Palaeographical Society. The development that is found in these papyri of minuscule forms almost complete shows how great a change must have been at work during the three centuries which intervene between the date of the Dacian tablets and that of these documents; and the variety of shape which certain of them assume in combination with other letters proves that the scribes were well practised in the hand.
The letter a has now lost all trace of the capital ; it is the open u-shaped minuscule, developed from the looped uncial Cc\ 'JO ; the b, throwing off the loop or curve on the left which gave it the appearance of d, has developed one on the right, and appears in the form familiar in modern writing ; minuscule m, n, and u are fully formed (the last never joining a following letter, and thus always distinguishable from a); p, q, and r approach to the long minuscules, and s, having acquired an incipient tag, has taken the form r which it keeps long after.
This form of writing was widely used, and was not confined to legal documents. It is found in grammatical works, as in the second hand of the palimpsest MS. of Licinianus (Cat. Anc. MSS., pt. ii., pls. 1, 2) of the 6th century, and in such volumes as the Josephus of the Ambrosian Library of the 7th century (Pal. 'Soc., pl. 59), and in the St Avitus of the 6th century and other MSS. written in France and referred to below- under the head of Merovingian writing. It is indeed only natural to suppose that this, the most convenient, because cursive, hand, should have been employed for ordinary books which were in daily use. That so few of such books should have survived is no doubt owing to the destruction of the greater number by the wear and tear to which they were subjected.