PALEOGRAPHY GREEK WRITING - the period which has to be traversed in following the history of Greek palaeography begins with the 2d century B.C. and ends at the close of the 15th century. For all this long period the subject is illustrated by a fair amount of material, more or less connected in chronological sequence. Greek writing in MSS., as far as we know it from extant remains, passed through two courses, - that of the uncial or large letter, and that of the minuscule or small letter. The period of the uncial runs from the date of the earliest specimens on papyrus to the 9th century, that of the minuscule from the 9th century to the invention of printing. An established form of writing, however, cannot, any more than any other human habit, be suddenly abandoned for a new one ; and we are therefore prepared to find the uncial character continue to be used after the first introduction of the smaller hand. It did in fact sur vive for special purposes for some three centuries after it had ceased to be the common form of book-writing. Inversely, no fully developed handwriting suddenly springs into existence ; and we therefore look for the first beginnings of the minuscule hand in documents of far higher antiquity than those of the 9th century.
Uncial. - The term uncial has been borrowed from the nomenclature of Latin palaographyl and applied to Greek writing of the larger type to distinguish it from the minuscule or smaller character. In Latin majuscule writing there exist both capitals and uncials, each class distinct. In Greek MSS. pure capital letter-writing was never employed (except occasionally for ornamental titles at a late time). As distinguished from the square capitals of inscriptions, the uncial writing has certain rounded letters, as E, C, CO, modifications in others, and some extending above or below the line.
Uncial Greek writing in early times is found in two forms, - the set and the cursive. In examining the set or, as it may be termed, the literary hand, we find that regard must be had to the material on which it was written. For the material has always had more or less influence on the character of the writing. To the substitution of a soft surface for a hard one, of the pen for the graving tool, we undoubtedly owe the rounded forms of the uncial letters. The square-formed capitals were more easily cut on stone or metal; the round letters more readily traced on skin or wax or papyrus with stile, reed, or pen. Again, the earliest specimens of Greek uncials are found on papyrus ; and this delicate and brittle material naturally required a light style of penmanship. When the firmer material of vellum came into use, there followed a change in the style of writing, which assumed the calligraphic form, which will be considered in its place.
The earliest examples of Greek uncial writing are on papyrus, and have been discovered in Egypt and in the ruins of Herculaneum. When we turn to the literary remains with the view of following the course of the set hand, a difficulty arises at the outset ; for in some of the most ancient specimens (and notably the Mem) TEXVY7 referred to below) there is a fluctuation between set and cursive writing which makes it no easy matter to decide how they should be classed. In the same way, when we come to consider the first examples of cursive hand, we shall find much in them which might be termed a set cast of writing. In fact, in the period when these ancient examples were produced, the formal and cursive styles were not so distinctive as they afterwards became. For our present purpose we may class the literary works in this doubtful style of writing under the book-band, and place the documents among the specimens of cursive.
With regard to the different dates to be assigned to these early relics, those which have been recovered from Herculaneum have a limit, after which they cannot have been written, in the year of the destruction of the city, 79 A.D. But how far before that date they may be set it is hazardous to conjecture, although the greater number probably fall within the 1st century of our era. In the case of most of the Egyptian papyri there is no such limit either way. In some instances, however, literary remains have been found in company with deeds bearing an actual date, and in two of them the documents are written on the backs of the literary papyri. The work on astronomy entitled Encienv TEX1/1;, among the papyri of the Louvre (N. et E.rtr., pls. i.--x.),2 is endorsed with deeds of 165 and Not inconsiderable fragments of the Iliad dating from the pre-Christian period have also come down to us. First in importance stands the fragmentary papyrus of bk. xviii., found in a tomb near Monfalat in 1849-50. It may be confidently dated as early as the 1st century B.C. The text is written in slender uncials, formed with regularity and generally upright, the inclination, if any, being to the left. This tendency to incline the letters back is a mark of age which repeats itself in the earliest forms of the set minuscule hand. Breathings and accents and various corrections have been added by a later hand in this papyrus, which is now in the British Museum (Cat. Ane. i.
pl. 1.).i Another papyrus of a portion of the Iliad, on the back of which is a work of Tryphon, the grammarian, was found at the same time, but remains in private hands. Among the papyri of the Louvre are also some fragments of the Iliad, viz., of bk. xiii. et Extr., pl. xii.) and of bks. vi. and xviii. (pl, xlix.), all of a date previous to the Christian era. The fragment of bk. vi. is of particular interest as being written in a band which is much more set and formal than is generally found in papyri, in rather narrowed letters, among which the normal form of capital A appears. In the other fragments are seen here and there accents and breathings which from all accounts are ancient, although not to be taken as the work of the first hand. Not being applied systematically, they are probably added by some teacher for instruction on particular points. But the Homeric papyrus which has hitherto had the widest reputation is that which bears the name of its former owner, Bankes, who bought it at Elephantine in 1821. It contains the greater part of the last book of the Iliad. The writing, however, differs very essentially from that of the other Homeric fragments just noticed. It is less free, and wants the spirit and precision of the others, and in the form of letters it approaches more nearly to the cast of those in the early MSS. on vellum. For these reasons it seems better to date this papyrus after the time of our Lord, perhaps even in the 2d century.
A fragment of papyrus containing a copy in duplicate of some lines supposed to be taken from the Temenides of Euripides, together with a few lines from the Medea and some extracts from other works, has been lately published (H. Weil, Un Papyrus inedit de la NU. de M. A. FirminDidot, Paris, 1879). The writing is in set uncials earlier than the year 161 B.C., a document of that date having been added.
But the most important discovery hitherto made among the papyri from Egypt is that of four of the orations of the Athenian orator Hyperides, all of which are now in the British Museum. The papyrus containing the orations for Lycophron and Euxenippus is in unusually good preservation, being 11 feet in length and having forty-nine columns of writing. Other portions of the same roll are extant, containing fragments of a third oration against Demosthenes. The writing is particularly elegant, and is evidently by a skilled penman, considerable play being exhibited in the formation of the letters, which, while still set uncials, are often linked together without raising the pen. The columns of writing incline to the right. There can be no hesitation in placing this papyrus as far back at least as the 1st century n.e. (see editions of Professor Babingtou, 1853 ; Cat. Any. if.SW, pls.' 2, 3; Pal. ,Soc.,2 pl. 126). Of much later date, however, is the papyrus containing the funeral oration on Leosthenes, 323 B.C. The writing differs entirely from that of the other orations, being in coarsely-formed uncials, sometimes wide apart and in other places cramped together ; and the forms of the letters are irregular. This irregularity is not the rough and hasty character of writing of an early age, such as that of the EMO$ov TEXI/7;, where, in spite of the want of regularity, it is evident that the scribe is writing a natural and practised hand. Here we have rather the ill-formed character bred of want of skill and familiarity with the style of writing. On the back is a horoscope, which has been shown to be that of a person born in 95 A.D. It was at one time assumed that this was an addition written after the oration had been inscribed on the other face of the papyrus. But from the evidence of the material itself the contrary appears to be the fact ; and we may accordingly accept the theory that as no work intended for sale would have been so written, the text of the oration probably represents a student's exercise, - a view which is also supported by the numerous faults in orthography. This specimen of writing, then, may be assigned to the 2d century of our era.
Lastly, among the discoveries in Egypt in Greek literature is the fragment of writings of the poet Alcman, now in the Louvre, which, however, appears to be not older than the 1st century B.C., the hand being light and rather sloping, and inclining in places to cursive forms. It is of interest as having scholia in a smaller hand, and a few accents and breathings added probably, as in the case of the fragment of Homer quoted above, by a teacher for the purpose of demonstration (X. et Extr., pl. 1.). It may be also added that some early documents are extant written in a set hand (e.g., S. et Extr., pl. xvii., Nos. 12, 13).
Turning to the remains discovered at Herculaneum, it is to be regretted that there exist hardly any sufficiently trustworthy facsimiles. The so-called facsimiles engraved in the Hereulanensia Volumina are of no palwographical value. They are mere lifeless representations, and only show us that the texts of the different papyri.are usually written in neatly-formed and regularly-spaced uncials. The character is better shown in two autotypes (Pal. Soc., pls. 151, 152) from the works of Philodemus and Metrodorus, although the blackening of the material by the action of the heated ashes threw great difficulty in the way of getting satisfactory reproductions by photography. In the first of these specimens the writing is very beautifully formed and evenly spaced, in the second it is rougher. But it is well to remember, when we have facsimiles from the Herculaneum papyri before us, that in many cases the material will have shrunk under the heat of the destroying shower, and that the writing, as we see it, may be much smaller than it was originally, and so have a more delicate appearance than when first written.
Very few waxen tablets inscribed with Greek uncial writing have survived. Two of them found at Memphis are preserved in the British Museum, and on one of them are traced sonic verses in large roughly-formed letters, the date of which can only be conjectured to fall in the 1st century (Verhancll. d. Philologen-Versamml. zu Warzburg, 1869, p. 244). Another set of five tablets is in the Cabinet des Medallles at Paris, containing scribbled alphabets, and a contractor's accounts in a later and more current hand (Rev. Archgal., viji. p. 461). A tablet from which the wax has worn, and which is inscribed with ink upon the wood, in characters of the 4th century, as is thought, is described in Trans. Roy. Soc. Lit., 2d ser., vol. x.
With the introduction of vellum as a writing material, the uncial characters entered on a new phase. As already observed, the firmer and smoother ground offered by the surface of the vellum to the pen of the scribe would lead to a more exact and firmer style in the writing. The light touch and delicate forms so characteristic of calligraphy on papyrus gave place to a rounder and stronger hand, in which the contrast of fine hair-lines and thickened down-strokes adds so conspicuously to the beauty of the writing of early MSS. on vellum. Of such MSS., however, none have survived which are attributed to a higher antiquity than the 4th century. And here it may be remarked, with respect to the attribution to particular periods of these early examples, that we are not altogether on firm ground. Internal evidence, such, for example, as the presence of the Eusebian Canons in a MS. of the Gospel, assists us in fixing a limit of age, but when there is no such support the dating of these early MSS. must be more or less conjectural. It is not till the beginning of the 6th century that we meet with a MS. which can be approximately dated ; and, taking this as a standard of comparison, we are enabled to distinguish those which undoubtedly have the appearance of greater age and to arrange them in some sort of chronological order. But these codices are too few in number to afford material in sufficient quantity for training the eye by familiarity with a variety of hands of any one period--the only method which can give entirely trustworthy results.
The earliest examples of vellum uncial MSS. are the three famous codices of the Bible. Of these, the most ancient, the Codex Vaticanus, is probably of the 4th century. The writing must, in its original condition, have been very perfect as a specimen of penmanship; but nearly the whole of the text has been traced over by a later hand, perhaps in the 10th or 1 Ith century, and only such words or letters as were rejected as readings have been left untouched. Written in triple columns, in letters of uniform size, without enlarged initial letters to mark even the beginnings of books, the MS. has all the simplicity of extreme antiquity (Pal. Soc., pl. 104). The Codex Sinaiticus (Pal. Soc., pl. 105) has also the same marks of age, and is judged by its discoverer, Tischendorf, to be even more ancient than the Vatican MS. In this, however, a comparison of the writing of the two MSS. leads to the conclusion that he was wrong. The writing of the Codex Sinaiticus is not so pure as that of the other MS., and, if that is a criterion of age, the Vatican MS. holds the first place. In one particular the � Codex Sinaiticus has been thought to approach in form to its possible archetype on papyrus. It is written with four columns to a page, the open book thus presenting eight columns in sequence, and recalling the long line of columns on an unfolded roll. The Codex Alexandrinus is placed in the middle of the 5th century. Here we have an advance on the style of the other two codices. The MS. is written in double columns only, and enlarged letters stand at the beginning of paragraphs. But yet the writing is generally more elegant than that of the Codex Sinaiticus. Examining these MSS. with a view to ascer tain the rules which guided the scribes in their work, we find simplicity and regularity the leading features; the round letters formed in symmetrical curves; E and C, dzc., finishing off in a hair-line sometimes thickened.at the end into a dot ; horizontal strokes fine, those of E, H, and 0 being either in the middle or high in the letter ; the base of A and the cross-stroke of 11 also fine, and, as a rule, kept within the limits of the letters and not projecting beyond. Here also may be noticed the occurrence in the Codex Alexandrinus of Coptic forms of letters (e.g.,A, alpha and mu) in the titles of books, &c., confirmatory of the tradition of the Egyptian origin of the MS.
In the 5th century also falls the illustrated Homer of the Ambrosian Library, sadly-mutilated. Some fifty fragments remain, cut out for the sake of the pictures which they contain ; and all the text that is preserved is that which happened to be on the backs of these pictures. Here the writing shows differences from that of the three codices just noticed, being taller ; and, to instance particular letters, the cross-stroke of E is abnormally low down, and the shape of A and P (the latter not produced below the line) and the large bows of B are also points of difference. It has been suggested that the MS. was written in the south of Italy by a Latin scribe (Pd. Soc., pls. 39, 40, 50, 51).
To the 5th century may also belong the palimpsest MS. of the Bible, known from the upper text as the Codex Ephraemi, at Paris (ed. Tischendorf, 1845), and the Octateuch, whose extant leaves are divided between Paris, Leyden, and St Petersburg - both of which MSS. are probably of Egyptian origin. Of the end of the 5th or beginning of the 6th century is the illustrated Genesis of the Cottonian Library, now unfortunately reduced to fragments by fire, but once the finest example of its kind (Cat. Anc. MSS., i. pl. 8). And to about the same time belong the Dio Cassius of the Vatican (Silvestre, pl. 60) and the Pentateuch of the Bibliotheque Nationale (Id., pl. 61).
In the writing of uncial MSS. of the 6th century there is a marked degeneration. The letters, though still round, are generally of a larger character, more heavily formed, and not so compactly written as in the preceding century. Horizontal strokes (e.g., in A, II, T) are lengthened and finished off with heavy points or finials. The earliest example of this period which has to be noticed is the Dioscorides of Vienna, which is of particular value for the study of the paleography of early vellum MSS. It is the earliest example to which an approximate date can be given. There is good evidence to show that it was written early in the 6th century for Juliana Anicia, daughter of Flavius Anicius Olybrius, emperor of the West in 472. Here we already notice the characteristics of uncial writing of the 6th century, to which reference has been made. To this century also belong the palimpsest Homer under a Syriac text, in the British Museum (Cat. Anc. MSS., i. pl. 9); its companion volume, used by the same Syrian scribe, in which are fragments of St Luke's Gospel (Ibid., pl. 10) ; the Dublin palimpsest fragments of St Matthew and Isaiah (T. K. Abbot, Par Palimpsest. Dubl.), written in Egypt; the fragments of the Pauline epistles from Mount Athos, sonic of which are at Paris and others at Moscow (Silvestri, pls. 63, 64 ; Sabas, pl. A), of which, however, the writing has been disfigured by retracing at a later period ; the Gospels written in silver and gold on purple vellum, whose leaves are scattered in London (Cott. MS., Titus C. xv.), Rome, Vienna, and its native home, Patmos ; the fragmentary Eusebian Canons written on gilt vellum and highly ornamented, the sole remains of some sumptuous volume (Cat. 21.11-C. MSS., i. pl. 11) ; the Coislin Octateueh (Silvestre, pl. 65) ; the Genesis of Vienna, one of the very few early illustrated MSS. which have survived (Pal. Soc., pl. 178). Tischendorf has given facsimiles of others, but too insufficiently for the critical study of palieography.
Reference may here be made to certain early bilingual Grzeco-Latin uncial MSS., written in the 6th and 7th centuries, which, however, have rather to be studied apart, or in connexion with Latin palaeography; for the Greek letters of these MSS. run more or less upon the lines of the Latin forms. The best-known of these examples are the Codex Bezm of the New Testament, at Cambridge (Pal. Soc., pls. 14, 15), and the Codex Claromontanus of the Pauline epistles, at Paris (Pal. Soc., pls. 63, 64), attributed to the 6th century; and the Laudian MS. of the Acts of the Apostles (Pal. Soc., pl.'80) of the 7th century. To these may be added the Harleian glossary (Cat. Anc. MSS., i. pl. 13), also of the 7th century.
An offshoot of early Greek uncial writing on vellum is seen in the Mceso-Gothic alphabet which Ulfi]as constructed for the use of his countrymen, in the 4th century, mainly from the Greek letters. Of the few extant remains of Gothic MSS. the oldest and most perfect is the Codex Argenteus of the Gospels, at Upsala, of the 6th century (Pal. Soc., pl. 118), written in characters which compare with purely written Greek MSS. of the same period. Other Gothic fragments appear in the sloping uncial hand seen in Greek MSS. of the 7th and following centuries.
About the year 600 Greek uncial writing passes into a new stage. We leave the period of the round and enter on that of the oval character. The letters E, 9, 0, C, instead of being symmetrically formed on the lines of a circle, are made oval ; and other letters are laterally compressed into a narrow shape. In the 7th century also the writing begins to slope to the right, and accents are introduced and afterwards systematically applied. This slanting style of uncials continued in use through the 8th and 9th- centuries, becoming heavier as time goes on. In this class of writing there is again the same dearth of dated MSS. as in the round uncial, to serve as standards for the assignment of dates. We have to reach the 9th century before finding a single dated MS. in this kind of writing. It is true that sloping Greek uncial writing is found in a few scattered notes and glosses in Syriac MSS. which bear actual dates in the 7th century, and they are so far useful as showing that this hand was firmly established at that time ; but they do not afford sufficient material in quantity to be of really practical use for comparison (see the tables of alphabets in Gardthausen's Criech. Palay.). Of more value are a few palimpsest fragments of the Elements of Euclid and of Gospel Lectionaries which occur also in the Syriac collection in the British Museum, and are written in the 7th and 8th centuries. There is also in the Vatican a MS. (Reg. 886) of the Theodosian code, which can be assigned with fair accuracy to the close of the 7th century (Gardth., Gr. Pal., p. 158), which, however, being calligraphic3lly written, retains some of the earlier rounder forms. This MS. may be taken as an example of transitional style. In the fragment of a mathematical treatise from Bobio, forming part of a MS. rewritten in the 8th century and assignable to the previous century, the slanting writing is fully developed. The formation of the letters is good, and conveys the impression that the scribe was writing a hand quite natural to him.
It should be also noticed that in this MS. - a secular one - there are numerous abbreviations (\Vattenbach, Script. Or. S pecint.,1 tab. 8). An important document of this time is also the fragment of papyrus in the Imperial Library at Vienna, which bears the signatures of bishops and others to the Acts of the council of Constantinople of 680. Some of the signatures are in slanting uncials (Wattenb., Script. Gr. Specim., tabb. 12, 13 ; Gardth., Gr. Pal., tab. 1). Of the 8th century is the collection of hymns (Brit. Mus., Add. MS. 26113) written without breathings or accents (Cat. Anc. MSS, i pl. 14). To the same century belongs the Codex Marcianus, the Venetian MS. of the Old Testament, which is marked with breathings and accents. The plate reproduced from this MS. (Wattenb., Script. Gr. Specim., tab. 9) contains in the second column a few lines written in round uncials, but in such a laboured style that nothing could more clearly prove the discontinuance of that form of writing as an ordinary hand. In the middle of the 9th century at length we find a MS. with a date in the Psalter of Bishop Uspensky of the year 862 (Wattenb., Script. Gr. Specim., tab. 10). A little later in date is the MS. of Gregory of Nazianzus, written between 867 and 886 (Silvestre, pl. 71) ; and at the end of the 9th or beginning of the 10th century stands a lectionary in the Harleian collection (Cat. Anc. MSS., i. pl. 17). But by this time minuscule writing was well established, and the use of the more inconvenient uncial was henceforth confined to church-service books. Owing to this limitation uncial writing now underwent a further calligraphic change. As the 10th century advances the sloping characters by degrees become more upright, and with this resumption of their old position they begin in the next century to cast off the compressed formation and again become rounder. All this is simply the result of calligraphic imitation. Service-books have always been the MSS. in particular on which finely-formed writing has been lavished ; and it was but natural that, when a style of writing fell into general disuse, its continuance, where it did continue, should become more and more traditional, and a work of copying rather than of writing. In the 10th century there are a few examples bearing dates. Facsimiles from two of them, the Curzon Lectionary of 980 and the Harleian Lectionary of 995, have been printed (Pal. S'oc., pls. 154, 26, 27). The Bodleian commentary on the Psalter (D. 4, 1) is likewise of great paleographic value, being written partly in uncials and partly in minuscules of the middle of the 10th century (Gardth., Gr. Pal., p. 159, tab. 2, col. 4). This late form of uncial writing appears to have lasted to about the middle of the 12th century. From it was formed the Slavonic writing in use at the present day.
Under the head of late uncial writing must be classed a few bilingual Graco-Latin MSS. which have survived, written in a bastard kind of uncial in the west of Europe. This writing follows, wherever the shapes of the letters permit, the formation of corresponding Latin characters, - the purely Greek forms being imitated in a clumsy fashion. Such MSS. are the Codex Augiensis of Trinity College, Cambridge, of the end of the 9th century (Pal.
Soc., pl. 127), and the Psalter of St Nicholas of Cusa (pl. 12S) and the Codex Sangallensis and Boernerianus of the 10th century (pl. 179). The same imitative characters are used in quotations of Greek words in Latin MSS. of the same periods.
Cursive. - The materials for the study of early Greek cursive writing are found in papyri discovered in Egypt and now deposited in the British Museum, the Louvre, the library of Leyden, and the Vatican. The earliest of these to which an exact date can be assigned are contained in the collection of documents of a certain Ptolemy, son of Glaucias, a Macedonian Greek, who became a recluse of the Serapauun at Memphis in 173-172 B.C., and collected or wrote these documents relating to himself and others connected with the service of the temple in the middle of the 2c1 century B.C. A series of these and other documents can be selected so as to give a fairly continuous course of cursive handwriting from that period for several centuries. The papyri are supplemented by the ostraka or potsherds on which were written the receipts for payment of taxes, &c., in Egypt under the Roman empire, and which have been found in large quantities. Lastly there are still extant a few specimens of Greek cursive writing on waxen tablets ; and in documents of the 6th and 7th centuries from Naples and Ravenna there arc found subscriptions in Latin written in Greek characters (Marini, I papyri diplom., 90, 92, 121; Cod. Dipl. Cavensis, vol. ii., No. 250).
Facsimiles of the cursively written papyri arc found scattered in different works, some dealing specially with the subject. By far the most plentiful and best executed are those which reproduce the specimens preserved at Paris in the atlas accompanying Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits, vol. xviii.
In the earliest examples of cursive writing we find the uncial character in use, and, as has been already remarked, many of the specimens fluctuate between the more formal or set book-hand and the cursive. As time goes on the two styles diverge more widely. The uncial book-hand had, as we have seen, a disposition to become more formal ; cursive writing naturally has the opposite tendency, to become more flowing and disintegrated, the more extensively it is used. But the fact that there existed in Egypt in the 2d century B.C. a cursive hand not differing very materially from a more formal contemporary hand seems to indicate that the two styles had diverged at no very long time before. It cannot, however, he supposed that a cursive form of Greek writing did not exist still earlier. The highly developed calligraphy of the earliest examples proves that Greek writing, as we there see it, was then no newly-discovered art. Judging by the analogy of later reforms, it is perhaps not going too far to conjecture that in the papyri under consideration we see the results of a calligraphic reform, in which a new model was perfected from earlier styles.
The cursive hand in its best style (e.g., X. et Extr., pls. xxviii., xxix.) is very graceful and exact. This elegance is indeed characteristic of most of the writings of the 2d century B.C., and if a criterion can be established for assisting in the difficult problem of dating the early papyri, this simplicity and evenness of writing appears to be the best.
becomes slacker and more sloping. There is more combination of letters, and a continual disintegration, so to say, of the forms of the letters themselves. Naturally the letters which undergo most change are those which lend themselves most readily to combination with others. Alpha, for example, a letter in constant use, and appearing in frequently recurring words (as Kai), quickly altered its shape. In the earliest papyri it is seen more cursively written than most of its fellows. Epsilon, again, is a letter which soon took a second form. It was found easier to make the cross-bar in conjunction with the upper half of the curve of the letter than by a separate stroke after the formation of the full curve e. The upper half of the letter naturally linked itself with the next following letter; and the epsilon thus broken is found as early as a hundred years B.C., and runs through succeeding centuries. The tau was treated in the same way. In the specimen given above it may be seen how the scribe first made half the horizontal stroke and attached it to the main limb by one action of the pen i, and then added the other half separately. By this device he avoided moving his hand far back. Next, to write the letter in one stroke, something like a y, was a natural development. The transformation of pi follows on the same lines ; and the n-shaped lunu comes from the capital letter quickly written, just as the same shape was derived in the Roman alphabet. Such a form as the sickle-shaped rho ? is one that would be expected ; but the system of breaking-up is in no form better illustrated than in the case of delta. This letter, it might be thought, would, from its original shape, resist combination more than any other, yet even in the 2d century B.C. this combination is accomplished, and delta occasionally appears open on the right side and linked with the following letter Ls-- Minuscule. - The gradual disintegration of the pure forms of the early uncials by this progressive development of more cursive characters led eventually to the formation of minuscule letters. By the beginning of the 6th century most of the letters which are afterwards recognized as minuscules in form had become individually developed. For example, the three letters B, H, and K, which in their capital or uncial shapes are quite distinct, had, at this period, acquired alternative shapes which are not very dissimilar from one another, and which by a careless reader may be confused. The letter B in cursive writing lost its loops and was joined by a tag to the following letter - a process by which it became very like the Latin u. So the II readily passed through the form n to 1a. ; and K became b.. The A developed at the apex an elongation of the right side of the triangle, which, for junction with the next letter, was bent over, and hence resulted the small 8. The transformation of M through m to s, and of N through u to p, is obvious. This development, however, of minuscules from the old uncials was a work of time. The incipient changes in individual letters can be detected in papyri of the 2d and 1st centuries B.C. ; but a fully developed minuscule hand, used as an independent form of writing, had no existence for some centuries to come. Arrived, however, at the end of the 6th century, we find a document of 600 A.D. given in facsimile in the Sotices et Extraits (pl. xxiii., No. 20), the writing of which is so full of the smaller letters that the hand is practically a minuscule one. This document and six others which are extant formed part of the business papers of one Aurelius Pachymius, dealer in purple dye, and, ranging in date from 592 to 616 A.D., are valuable material for elucidating the history of the Greek minuscule character. After an interval of eighty years another important document presents itself, in which the two styles of writing, the old uncial and the new minuscule, are seen on the same page. This is the fragmentary papyrus at Vienna, originally brought from Ravenna, which contains the subscriptions of bishops and others to the acts of the synod of Constantinople of 6S0 A.D. A facsimile was first printed by Lambecius (Comm.
Bell. Ca!sar., ed. Kollar, lib. viii. p. 863), and is reproduced by Wattenbach (Script. Or. Specim.., tabb. 12, 13), whose latest opinion, however, with regard to the document is, that the writing is too uniform to be the actual subscriptions, but that it is the work of a scribe imitating to some extent (and certainly so far that he has repeated the uncials and minuscules as he found them) the peculiarities of the original This appears to be really the case, but the document being a nearly contemporary copy continues to have considerable palaeographical value. An analysis of the alphabets of this papyrus and of the one of 600 A D. cited above is given by Gardthausen (Gr. Pal., taf. 4). The facsimile of the will of Abram, bishop of Harmonthis (Pal. Soc., pl. 107), may also be referred to as showing the mixture of large and small letters in the 8th century ; and in the single surviving specimen of Greek writing of the Imperial Chancery, containing portions of a letter addressed apparently to Pepin le Bref on the occasion of one of his wars against the Lombards in 753 or 756, appears a hand which approaches nearest to the set minuscule book-hand of the next century (Wattenb., Script. Gr. Specim., tabb. 14, 15).
Arrived at this matured stage of development, the minuscule character was in a condition to pass into the regular calligraphic form of writing. In the documents quoted above, it appears generally in a cursive form, and in this form it was undoubtedly also used for literary works. An example of such book-writing in the 8th century has been given in facsimile by Gardthausen (Bear. zur griech. Pal., 1877, taf. 1). But in the 9th century the minuscule hand assumed a set form from which the writing of the succeeding centuries developed as from a new basis.
The establishment of this set hand is to be ascribed to the fact of the minuscule being now generally adopted as the recognized literary hand, in place of the larger and more inconvenient uncial, and its consequent introduction into vellum books. As we have already seen, uncial writing was influenced in the same way when applied to vellum. The firmer surface of the skin offered to the calligrapher a better working ground for the execution of his handiwork ; and thus may be explained the almost sudden appearance of the beautiful and regular writing which presents itself in the minuscule MSS. of the 9th century.
Greek MSS. written in minuscules have been classed as follows :--(1) codices vetustissimi, of the 9th century and to the middle of the 10th century ; (2) vetusti, from the middle of the 10th to the middle of the 13th century; (3) rerentioreg, from the middle of the 13th century to the fall of Constantinople, 1453 ; (4) novelli, all after that date.
Of dated minuscule MSS. there is a not inconsiderable number scattered among the different libraries of Europe. Gardthausen (Or. Pal., 344 sq.) gives a list of some thousand, ending at 1500 A.D. But, as might be expected, the majority belong to the later classes. Of the 9th century there are not ten which actually bear dates, and of these all but one belong to the latter half of the century. In the 10th century, however, the number rises to nearly fifty, in the llth to more than a hundred.
In the period of codices velastissinti the minuscule hand is distinguished by its simplicity and purity. The period has been well described as the classic age of minuscules. The letters are symmetrically formed ; the writing is compact and upright, or has even a slight tendency to slope to the left. In a word, the beauty of this class of minuscule writing is unsurpassed. But in addition to these general characteristics there are special distinctions which belong to it. The minuscule character is maintained intact, without intrusion of larger or uncial-formed letters. With Its cessation as the ordinary literary hand the uncial character had not died out, We have seen that it was still used for liturgical books. It likewise continued to survive in a modified or half-uncial form for scholia, rubrics, titles, and special purposes - as, for example, in the Bodleian Euclid (Pal. Soc., pl. 66) - in minuscule written MSS. of the Oth and 10th centuries, These uses of the older character sufficed to keep it in remembrance, and it is therefore not a matter for surprise that some of its forms should reappear and commingle with the simple minuscule. This afterwards actually took place. But in the period now under consideration, when the minuscule had been cast into a new mould, and was, so to say, in the full vigour of youth, extraneous forms were rigorously excluded.
The breathings also of this class are rectangular, in unison with the careful and deliberate character of the writing ; and there is but slight, if any, separation of the words. In addition, as far as has hitherto been observed, the letters run above, or stand upon, the ruled lines, and do not depend from them as at a later period. The exact time at which this latter mechanical change took place cannot be named ; like other changes it would naturally establish itself by usage. But at least in the middle of the 10th century it seems to have been in use. In the Bodleian MS. of Basil's homilies of 953 A.D. (Pal. Soc., pl. 82) the new method is followed ; and if we are to accept the date of the 9th century ascribed to a MS. in the Ambrosian Library at Milan (Wattenb., Script. Gr. Specim., tab. 17), in which the ruled lines run above the writing, the practice was yet earlier. Certain scribal peculiarities, however, about the MS. make us hesitate to place it so early. In the Laurentian Herodotus (W, and V., Exen/p/et,1 tab. 31), which belongs to the 10th century, sometimes the one, sometimes the other system is followed in different parts of the volume; and the same peculiarity happens in the MS. of Gregory of Nazianzus of 972 A.D. in the British Museum (Pat Soc., pl. 25 ; Exempla, tab. 7). The second half of the 10th century therefore appears to be a period of transition in this respect..
The earliest dated example of codices vetustissinti is the copy of the Gospels belonging to Bishop Uspensky, written in the year 835. A facsimile is given by Gardthausen (Beitreige) and repeated in the Exempla (tab. I). Better specimens have been photographed from the Oxford Euclid of 888 A.D. (Pal. Soc., pls. 65, 66 ; Exemp/a, tab. 2) and from the Oxford Plato of 895 A.D. (Pal. Soc., pl. 81; Exempla, tab. 3). Sabas (Specian. Pa/Kograph.) has also given two facsimiles from MSS. of 880 and 899. To this list maybe added a facsimile of the Chronicles of Nicephorus in the British Museum, which falls within the 9th century (Cat. Atte. MAW., i. pl. 15), and also one of the Aristotle of Milan, which may be of the 9th or early 10th century(Pal. Soc., pl. 129 ; Wattenb., ,Ceript. Or. Sperim., tab. 16). Of the year 905 is the Catena on Job at Venice (Exempla, tab. 4) ; and other facsimiles of MSS. of this class are taken from a MS. of the Gospels in the British Museum (Cat. Anc. tIISS., i. pl. 16), the Ambrosian Plutarch (Wattenb. Script. Gr. Specim.., tab. 20), and the Ambrosian MS. of the Prophets (tab. 17), the last having, among otherpeculiarities, an unusual method of distinguishing the sigma at the end of a word by an added dot. These few facsimiles are all that are at present available for the purpose of studying minuscule book-writing of the first class. They are, however, all reproduced by photography, and serve sufficiently to show the character of writing which we are to look for in other, undated, examples of the same time.
After the middle of the 10th century we enter on the period of the codices vetusti, in which it will be seen that the writing becomes gradually less compact. The letters, so to say, open their ranks ; and, from this circumstance alone, MSS. of the second half of the century may generally be distinguished from those fifty years earlier. But alterations also take place in the shapes of the letters. Side by side with the purely minuscule forms those of the uncial begin to reappear, the cause of which innovation has already been explained. These uncial forms first show themselves at the end of the line, the point at which most changes first gained a footing, but by degrees they work back into the text, and at length become recognized members of the minuscule characters. In the 11th and 12th centuries they are well established, and become more and more prominent by the large or stilted forms which they assume. The change, however, in the general character of the writing of this class of codices vetusti is very gradual, uniformity and evenness being well maintained, especially in church books. Among the latter, a trilingual Psalter of the year 1153, in the British Museum (Pal. Soc., pl. 132), may be noted as an example of the older style of writing being adhered to at a comparatively late time. On the other hand, a lighter and more cursive kind of minuscule is found contemporaneously in MSS. of a secular nature. In this hand many of the classical MSS. of the 10th or 11th centuries are written, as the MS. of yEschylus and Sophocles, the Odyssey and the Apollonius Rhodius of the Laurentian Library at Florence, the Anthologia Palatina of Heidelberg and Paris, the Hippocrates of Venice (Exempla, tabb. 32-36, 38, 40), and the A ristophanes of Pavenna (Wattenb., Script. Gr. Specim., tab. 26). In a facsimile from a Plutarch at Venice (Exempla, tab. 44), the scribe is seen to change from the formal to the more cursive hand. This style of writing is distinguishable by its light and graceful character from the current writing into which the minuscule degenerated at a later time. The gradual rounding of the rectangular breathings takes place in this period. In the 11th century the smooth breathing, which would most readily lend itself to this modification, first appears in the new form. In the course of the 12th century both breathings have lost the old square shape; and about the same time contractions become more numerous, having been at first confined to the end of the line. Facsimiles from several MSS. of the codices vetusti and the following class have been published by the Palmographical Society and by Wattenbach and Von Velsen in their Exempla.
When the period of codices recentiores commences, the contrast between MSS. of the 13th century and those of a hundred years earlier is very marked. In the later examples the hand is generally more straggling, there is a greater number of exaggerated forms of letters, and marks of contraction and accents are dashed on more freely. There is altogether a sense of greater activity and haste.
The increasing demand for books created a larger supply. Scholars now also copied MSS. for their own use, and hence greater freedom and more variety appear in the examples of this class, together with an increasing use of ligatures and contractions. The introduction of the coarse cotton paper into Constantinople in the middle of the 13th century likewise assisted to break up the formal minuscule hand. To this rough material a rougher style of writing was suited. Through the 14th and 15th centuries the decline of the set minuscule rapidly advances. In the MSS. on cotton paper the writing becomes even more involved and intricate, marks of contraction and accents are combined with the letters in a single action of the pen, and the general result is the production of a thoroughly cursive hand. On vellum, however, the change was not so rapid. Church books were still ordinarily written on that material, which, as it became scarcer in the market (owing to the injury done to the trade by the competition of -cotton paper), was supplied from ancient codices which lay ready to hand on the shelves of libraries. The result was an increasing number of palimpsests. In these vellum liturgical MSS. the more formal style of the minuscule was still maintained, and even on paper church services are found to be in the same style. In the 14th century there even appears a partial Renaissance in the writing of church MSS., modelled to some extent on the lines of the writing of the 12th century. The resemblance, however, is only superficial; for no writer can entirely disguise the character of the writing of his own time. And lastly there was yet another check upon the absolute disintegration of the minuscule in the 15th century exercised by the professional scribes who worked in Italy. Here the rag-paper, which had never made its way in the East, was the only paper in use. Its smoother surface approximated more nearly to that of vellum; and the minuscule hand as written by the Greek scribes in Italy, whether on paper or vellum, reverted again to the older style. The influence of the Renaissance is evident in many of the productions of the Italian Greeks which were written as specimens of calligraphy and served as models for the first Greek printing types.
The Greek minuscule hand had, then, by the end of the 15th century, become a cursive hand, from which the modern current hand is directly derived. We last saw the ancient cursive in use in the documents prior to the formation of the set minuscule, and no doubt it continued in use concurrently with the book hand. But, as the latter passed through the transformations which have been traced, and gradually assumed a more current style, it may not unreasonably be supposed that it absorbed the cursive hand of the period, and with it whatever elements of the old cursive hand may have survived.