2. Script Types

2.5 The Gothic Scripts - Textualis

The progressive move away from the round Caroline forms and towards angularity anticipated in the Protogothic period arrived by the late 12th century to a set of scripts jointly known as Gothic. This momentous period in the history of western script saw both the establishment of a (rather strict) hierarchy of styles according to the nature and purpose of the book to be copied and the rediscovery of cursive styles for documents (and books later in the period).

Bookhand (Textualis)

The Gothic period saw a neat separation between bookhands and documentary hands unlike that seen in previous phases. With regards to the former, the degree of angularity featured in Protogothic hands was highlighted by heavily compressing letterforms, thus emphasising height over width and turning the characteristic Protogothic oval bowls into lozenge-like shapes. Similarly, other characteristics already present in the previous phase became more apparent. The almost uniform addition of feet and serifs to minims, including those of f and s; the fusion (or biting) of facing bowls (such as d and b when followed by e or o), the use of uncial d, and the return of the tironian nota instead of the ampersand for et are found throughout the Gothic period.

In this clip Dr Erik Kwakkel (Leiden University) discusses biting and fusion from the late Protogothic period.

The classification of Gothic bookhands (textualis) is not an easy task and it frequently varies from commentator to commentator. Even so, it is often agreed that there were four grades of Gothic textualis which reflect both the treatment given to the minims as well as the quality of the manuscript in question.

Prescissa - Found in de-luxe items, where the feet of minims end up in a horizontal break.

Click here for an example of this grade in 'The Bromholm Psalter', Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Ashmole 1523 (s. xiv in., East Anglia). (Opens a new window)

Quadrata - Found in MSS of very high quality, here minims terminate in distinctive diamond-line feet.

Semi-quadrata - A medium-quality grade, minims alternate sporadically between the feet seen in the quadrata style and a rounded terminal (as those in rotunda).

Click here for an example of this grade in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Laud Misc. 720, part II (s. xiii 3/4, England). (Opens a new window)

Rotunda - The lowest grade of the four, its distinctive minims are simply rounded off.


Transcription practice

Click here to transcribe a few lines from London, Senate House Library, MS 597 (opens a new window).