We have now to investigate the very interesting subject of the formation of the national handwritings of Western Europe; derived from Roman writing. On the Continent the cursive hand which has just been noticed became the basis of the writing of Italy, Spain, and Frankland, and from it were moulded the three national hands which we know as Lombardic, Visigothic, and Merovingian. The common origin of all three is sufficiently evident on an inspection of the earliest charters of those countries.
In the book-hands elaborated by professional scribes from the cursive, with a certain admixture of uncial and half-uncial forms, we see the lines of demarcation between the three kinds of writing at length quite clearly defined. But it was only to be expected that particularly in the earlier stages there should be examples which it would be difficult to assign definitely to either one or other of Ihese national divisions; and, as a matter of fact, the difference between a MS. written in France and another written in Italy is not always so strongly marked as to enable us to call the one decidedly Merovingian or the other decidedly Lombardic in its style.
We will examine the three hands in the order in which they have been above referred to, reserving the Merovingian for the last, as that form of writing leads on to the Caroline Minuscule, which eventually displaced all three.
That the national handwriting of Italy, founded on the old Roman cursive, should not have developed on the same lines throughout the country is attributable to political causes. The defeat of the Lombards in northern Italy by Charlemagne subjected it there to new influences, and checked its development in the direction which it continued to follow in the Lombard duchies of the south, and particularly in the monasteries of Monte Cassino near Naples and La Cava near Salerno. Therefore, although the title of Lombardic is given as a general term to the writing of Italy in the early middle ages, that title might be more properly restricted to its particular development in the south, covering the period from the ninth to the thirteenth century, and reaching its climax in the eleventh century.
In an example of the book-hand of Northern Italy in the seventh century, the Verona Augustine (Sickel, Mon. Graph, iii. 1), we find the half-uncial element very strong, and what would be termed the Lombardic element, the peculiar adaptation of certain cursive forms, rather subordinate. Again, in the Sacramentarium (MS. 348) of St. Gall (Pal. Soc. i. pl. 185), which belonged to Remedius, Bishop of Chur (A.D. 800-820), and which may therefore be placed at least as early as the beginning of the 9th century, if not at the end of the 8th century, the writing, though classed as Lombardic, is rather of the type which we should prefer to call modified Lombardic. In the facsimile here given, while the descent of the writing from the Roman cursive can pretty readily be traced, the national character of the hand is not very marked, and it is only the letters a (in fhe double-c form) and t which are absolutely Lombardic in shape.
|Sacramentarium.—8th or 9th century.|
|[inli]bata : Inprimis que tibi offerimus pro | ecclesia tua sanct a . catholica . quam pacifi | care . custodire . adunare . et regere dig | neris . toto orbe terrarum : Una cum|
To illustrate the Lombardic hand in one of its earliest stages, written cursively, we take a few lines from a deed of Grimoaldus IV., Duke of Benevento, of the year 810 (Paleogrofia artistica di Montecassino—Longobardo-Cassinese, tav. xxxiv.).
|Deed from Benevento.—A.D.810.|
|—in vitis seu sponte ante cuius cum que pe rso[na] | —abbati ssam seu pre pos itos ve l qui hab eis sunt ordi[nati] | —semper iam phatus cenobius abbatiss a vel | —omne sque sibi subiectis absque omn i|
Here we have a writing which is essentially the Roman cursive, but subjected to certain exaggerations and peculiarities of formation which, being further developed,, afterwards mark the Lombardic hand. The open a, the looped t, and the e with an indented or broken back are letters to be noticed. The manner of writing the letter a above the line in a zig-zag stroke commencing with a curve (hab in 1. 2, and phatus in 1. 3) is only an exaggeration of the practice which was referred to above in the remarks upon the Ravenna documents.
The next facsimile is from a MS. of Albinus Flaccus " De Trinitate." of the year 812, in the monastery of Monte Cassino (Pal. art. di M. C. tav. xxxvii).
|centum qua lraginta tres hos divide— | triginta centum viginti remanent.— | egyptiorum . ad ipsas adice octo et fiun[t] | — triginta superat unus ipsum est ad— | Sic et ceteros annos per aeras discurrentes—|
In this example the hand is formally written as a book-hand, with the characteristic shapes of the letters a, e, and t now quite developed. And even at this early period there is discernible the tendency to give a finish to short vertical strokes, as in m, n, and u, by adding heavy oblique heads and feet. This style of ornamental finish was carried to its height in the course of the eleventh century, and had the result of imparting to Lombardic writing of that period, by the strong contrast of the fine and heavy strokes, the peculiar appearance which has gained for it the name of broken Lombardic. The facsimile wliich follows is a good specimen of this type. It is from a Lectionary written at Monte Cassino between the years 1058 and 1087 (Pal. art. di M. C. tav. xlv.).
|nos et lavit nos | a peccatis nost ris in | sanguine suo.′ et fe | cit nost rum regnum | sacerdotes de o et|
After this period the Lombardic hand declines in beauty and becomes more angular. A specimen of the later style is found in a commentary on monastic rules by Bernard, abbot of Monte Cassino from 1264 to 1282 (Pal. art. di M. C. tav. liii).
|sum . id est tributum qu od ex debito debent | sicu t servi dom ino videlicet septem vicibus in | die et semel in nocte psallere . non negli | gant reddere . id est reddant diligenter | et studiose . debent enim habere a biblio[theca]|
Visigothic is the title given to the national writing of Spain derived from the Roman cursive. It runs a course very close to that of the Lombardic, developing a book-hand of distinctive character, which is well established in the eighth and ninth centuries and lasts down to the twelth century. Its final disuse was due, as in the case of the other continental national hands, to the advance of the Caroline minuscule hand, which, however, as was to be expected, could only displace the native hand by degrees, making its presence felt at first in the north of the Peninsula.In the collection of photographic facsimiles Exempla Scripturae Visigothicae, edited by P. Ewald and G. Loewe (Heidelberg, 1883), the course of the Visigothic writing can be fairly followed. In the cursive hand of the seventh century we find little variation from the Roman cursive; but almost immediately we are in the presence of a half-cursive book-hand (Ex. 4) which is attributed to the 7th or 8th century, and which has already assumed a distinctive character, as will be seen from the following facsimile. It comes from a treatise of St. Augustine in a MS. in the Escurial.
|St. Augustine.—7th or 8th century.|
|[qu]od scit medicus esse noxium sanitati | —medicus ergo ut egru m exaudiat | —voluntatem . denique etiam ipsa | —accipit propter quod ter dom inum rogabit | —mea nam virtus in infirmitate per ficitur j —tur a te stimulus carnis quem accepisti|
In this specimen the old forms of the Roman cursive letters are treated in a peculiar method, the inclination of the writing to the left imparting a compressed and angular character. The high-shouldered letter r and the ordinary t are already in the forms which at a later period are prominent in Visigothic MSS., and the letter g is beginning to take the q-form which makes it the most characteristic letter of the Visigothic alphabet. It is interesting to notice the shapes of a and u (the linking of the first letter which distinguishes it, as in its Roman prototype, from the independently written u, still being observed), the forms of p, and the different changes of t when in combination with other letters— all referable to their Roman ancestors.
In many of the specimens of the eighth and ninth centuries we find a small evenly-written hand, in which the light and heavy strokes are in strong contrast, the inclination of the letters being still rather to the left. But we choose our next facsimile from a MS. which is of a rather more formal type, and is a more direct link in the development of the later style. It is from a MS. of the Etymologies of St. Isidore, in the Escurial, of the first half of the 9th Century (Ex. 14).
|St. Isidore.—9th century.|
|sunt nova. Testamentum | aute m novum . ideo nuncupatur . | quia innovat., non enim illum | discunt . nisi homines renovati I ex vetustate per gratiam et per ti—|
The letters of the Visigothic hand are here fully developed ; and at the same time the thickening or clubbing of the tall vertical strokes seems to indicate the influence of the French school. Attention may be drawn to the occurrence in the last line of the abbreviated form of per peculiar to the Visigothic hand, which in other countries would represent pro.
We advance some hundred years, and select our next facsimile from a Martyrology in the British Museum (Pal. Soc. i. pl. 95), which was written in the diocese of Burgos in the year 919.
|iussit cum capite plecti : quum que | decollatus esset beatus Prota | sius.′ ego servus Christ i Philippus | abstuli cum filio meo furtim | nocte corpora san cta .′ et in domo|
It will be seen that this specimen differs from tbe last one in being rather squarer in form of letters and in having the vertical strokes finer. There is, in fact, a decided loss as regards actual beauty of writing. The MS. is one which may be classed as a specimen of calligraphy, and therefore rather in advance of others of the same period which still retain much of the older character, and is dominated by the increasing influence of the French hand. In passing, the use of the conjunction quum in Our specimen may be noticed, a practice of Visigothic scribes, while those of other nations employ the form cum.
The squareness and thinness of type which we have seen appearing in the above specimen increases in course of time, and is most characteristic of later Visigothic writing of the eleventh and early twelfth centuries. In this change, too, we may trace the same influence which is seen at work in other handwritings of Western Europe of that period.
Our last Visigothic facsimile is supplied by a MS. of the Commentary of Beatus on the Apocalypse, now in the British Museum (Pal. Soc. i. pl. 48), which was written in the monastery of St. Sebastian of Silos, in the diocese of Burgos, in the year 1109.
|Commentary on the Apocalypse.—A.D.1109.|
|ad hanc ecclesi am Per trait . ut semper sibi | socios requirat . cum quos precipitetur | in geenna.′ semper enim hec mulier etiam I ante adventum dom ini parturiebat | in doloribus suis . queͅ est antiqua eͅccles ia | patrum et pro fet arum . et san ct orum et aposto lorum|
The hands which have been classed as Merovingian, practised as they were over the whole extent of the Frankish empire, were on that account of several types; and, as has been already stated, the boundary line between the different national hands is not always to be accurately traced. First to consider the style of writing to which the name of Merovingian may par excellence be applied, we turn to the many official documents still in existence of the Merovingian dynasty which are to be found in facsimile in such works as Letronne׳'s Diplomata (1848), the Facsimile de Chartes et Diplomes Mérovingiens et Carlovingiens of Jules Tardif (1866), the Kaiserurkunden in Abbildungen of von Sybel and Sickel (1880, etc.), and the Musée des Archives Départementales (1878). In these the Roman cursive is transformed into a curiously cramped style of writing, the letters being laterally compressed, the strokes usually slender, and the heads and tails of letters exaggerated. As an example we may take a section from a charter of Childebert III., in favour of the Abbey of St. Denis, of the year 695 (Tardif, Monuments Historiques, p. 28).
|Charter of Childerbert.—A.D.695.|
|[sexcen]tus eum roganti pro ipso conposuisset et pro | — [nonco]panti Hosdinio in pago Belloacense ad inte[grum] | — per suo estrumentum delegasset vel fir[masset] | —ibidem ad presens aderat interrogatum fuit | —sua in suproscripto loco Hosdinio ipsius Hai[noni] | —[v]el firmasset sed ipsi Boctharius elirecus in|
There is no difficulty in tracing the descent of the various forms of letters here employed from the parent stock, the Roman cursive. But, besides such shapes as those of the varying t and the high-written a and the coalescing form of the same letter in combination, as in the word ad, which at once arrest the eye, special notice may be taken of the narrow double-c shaped a, which is characteristic in this hand, and, in a less degree, of the u, worn down into a curved or sickle-shaped stroke —a form which is found in the book-hand, not only as an over-written u, but also as a letter in the body of the writing.
The book-hand immediately derived from this style of writing, which is, in fact, the same hand moulded into a set calligraphic style, appears in various extant MSS. of the seventh, and eighth centuries. We select a specimen from a Lectionary of the Abbey of Luxeuil, written in the year 669.
|Lectionary of Luxeuil.—A.D.669.|
|hic est qui verbum audit . et continuo c[um gau] | dio accipit illud . non habet autem in s[e radicem] | sed est temporalis, facta autem tri[bulatione] | et persecutione . propter verbum . con[tinuo] | scandalizatur, qui autem est semina[tus]|
As an example of the same type of writing, but of later date, the following facsimile is taken from a MS. of Pope Gregory's Moralia, probably of the latter part of the 8th century, in the British Museum (Add. MS., 31,031 ; Cat. Anc. MSS. ii. pl. 33).
|St. Gregories Moralia.—8th century.|
|deseratur . Quia et frustra velociter currit— | reniat deficit. Hinc est enim qu od de reprobis— | sustinenciam. hinc est enim quod de electis suis— | mansistis mecum in temtacionibus meis . hinc— | ad finem iustus perseverasse describitur|
Of other types of handwriting which were used within the limits of the Frankish empire and which must be considered under the present division, there are some which bear a close resemblance to the Lombardic style— so close, indeed, that many MSS. of this character have been. classed as Lombardic. We are here, in fact, in presence of the same difficulties as have been noticed under the section dealing with Lombardic writing ; and have to deal with examples, any classification of which, in face of their mixed character, cannot but be to some extent arbitrary.
The following specimen is from the Harley MS. 5041, in the British Museum, containing theological treatises, and homilies, of the end of the 7th century. It cannot be doubted that the volume was written in France, and in the character of individual letters it is of the Merovingian type, while in general appearance it has rather a Lombardic cast.
|Homilies.—late 7th century.|
|Cum praees hominibus memento quia tibi est deu s | iudicans homines scito quia ipse iudicaveris— | Qui locum pre dicationis suscipit ad altitudine | boni actionis ad excelsa transeat et eorum | qui sibi commissisunt opera transcendat|
The letters which may be specially noticed are the a and the sickle-shaped u which were referred to above.
There are also a certain number of extant MSS. of the eighth and ninth centuries of a particular type, of which some were certainly written in France, while others appear to have been written in Italy. There seems then to be a doubt whether we should class this hand as Lombardic or as a variation of Merovingian. It certainly approached more nearly to the Lombardic style. It appears, for example, in the Paris MS. 3836, containing a collection of Ecclesiastical Canons, of the 8th century (Pal. Soc. i. pl. 8, 9) ; in some leaves of the early part ol the 9th century added to a MS. of Homilies, etc., written at Soissons early in that century; and, on the other hand, in the Harley MS. 3063, the commentary of Theodore of Mopsuestia on the Pauline Epistles (Cat Anc. MSS. ii. pl. 35), of the 9th century, which, from internal evidence seems to have been written in Italy. We select a few lines from the Soissons MS.
|Sermon of St. Caesarius.—8th century.|
|aliis maledicere propter illud quod scriptu[m]— | regnum de i possedibunt , Numquam iurar[e]— | vir multum iurans implebitur iniquitat[e]— | de domo illius plaga . Quod autem dicit de do— | plagam.′ non de domo terrena sed de anima ei|
But it must not be forgotten that the Uncial and Half-uncial styles were still employed for the production of the greater number of literary MSS. ; and that the professional scribes, who were of course expert both in those formal book-hands and in the more cursive characters of the Merovingian, would naturally, when writing without special care or in a rough and ready style, mix the characters of the different hands. Thus we are prepared to find the influence of the uncial and half-uncial showing itself in modifying the extravagances of the cursive Merovingian, and, on the other hand, the cursive breaking out among lines written in a more formal character. Two very interesting MSS. in a variety of hands in which these influences are marked have been described by Monsieur Delisle : Notice sur un Manuscrit Mérovingien d'Eugyppius (1875) written early in the 8th century. and Notice sur un Manuscrit Mérovingien de la Bibliothèque d'Epinal (1878) of the Epistles of St. Jerome, written in the year 744. The two following facsimiles represent two of the many hands employed.
|—e potuerit quod per serpentem dictum | —fructu ligni illius vescerentur quia sci | —deu s propter dinoscentiam boni et ma | —[bo]num creatureͅ suae creator invi | —[spir]itali mente praeditus credere | —[cre]dere ipsi non possit . propterea mu—|
Here we have a hand cast into a fairly simple form, but in some words using more cursive letters than in others.
In the next example the influence of the half-uncial style is more evident, and the minuscule book-hand has here advanced to that stage of development which only required a master to mould it into the simple and elegant form which it was soon to receive.
|—ri oportet . ante tribunal Christ i | —[co]rporis sui . prout gessit . sive bonum . | —te virgo . filia Sion . quia magna | — [t]ua effunde sicut . aqua cor . con[tra] | —[man]us tuas . pro remedium pecca[torumj | —[la]mentationem . et nullo quidem|
Later examples of the eighth Century continue to show an advance towards the desired minuscule literary Land which should take the place of the less convenient uncial writing.
The period of Charlemagne is an epoch in the history of the handwritings of Western Europe. With the revival of learning naturally came a reform of the writing in which the works of literature were to be made known. A decree of the year 789 called for the revision of church books; and this work naturally brought with it a great activity in the writing schoois of the chief monastic centres of France. And in none was there greater activity than at Tours, where, under the rule of Alcuin of York, who was abbot of St. Martin's from 796 to 804, was specially developed the exact hand which has received the name of the Caroline Minuscule. Monsieur Delisle, in his Mémoire sur l'Ecole calligraphique de Tours au ixe siècle (1885)enumerates as many as twenty-five MSS. of the Carlovingian period still in existence which, from the character of the writing, may be ascribed to the school of Tours or at Ieast to scribes connected with that school.
Of the capital writing employed in the titles and other ornamental parts of such MSS. we need not concern ourselves; but, besides the minuscule hand,there is a hand, employed, in a sense, as an ornamental form of writing, which is characteristic of the school and is adapted from the Roman Half-uncial hand of the sixth century. We select a few lines from one of Monsieur Delisle's facsimiles, taken from a MS. at Quedlinburg.
|Sulpicius Severus.—early 9th century.|
|ne crevit et ampulla cum o | leo quod benedixerat super | constratum marmorem pa | vimentum caecidit et in | tegra est inventa|
If reference is made to the facsimiles of half-uncial writing above (p. 202) it will be seen how in this hand the sentiment of breadth in the older hand is maintained, as e.g. in the sweeping strokes of r and s, and in the width and curves of a and m. The shape of g is also to be noticed; and not less the employment of the capital N.
The habit of copying this fine bold type of early writing undoubtedly contributed to the elegance of the minuscule hand which was developed in the French school. Of this hand the following example is selected from the same MS. of Quedlinburg.
|Sulpicius Severus.—early 9th century.|
|ex uberibus caprarum aut ovium pas | torum manu praessis . longa linea | copiosi lactis effluere.′ Puer . sur | rexit incolomis.′ Nos obstupefacti | tantae rei miraculo . id quod ipsa | cogebat veritas fatebamur . non|
We now leave for the present the further consideration of this new style and devote the following chapter to an examination of the early Irish and English schools of Writing, which followed a different line from that of the continental national hands.