The Medieval World, C. 400–1300

Carolingian and Ottonian Art

What is the Caroline script?

In the early medieval period, scribes were responsible for hand-copying illuminated manuscripts, and although these scribes were specially trained, penmanship was overall quite poor, and scribes did not follow a specific set of rules when writing. During the Carolingian period (Carolingian is an adjective used to indicate the rule of Charlemagne and his descendents), a new system of writing was developed, which resulted in much greater consistency from scriptorium to scriptorium. The use of majuscules, or capital letters, was based on the ancient Roman alphabet. Majuscules were used in titles and headings, and on only the most formal manuscripts. Lowercase letters, or minuscules, were quicker and easier overall, and were used for less formal writing. Ready to take a crack at reading a tenth-century manuscript? After perfecting your reading knowledge of Latin (the primary language used in medieval manuscripts), note that the Caroline script did not include spaces between words, or punctuation marks!


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