Saturday, May 26, 2012

Carolingian Art - Paleography



You too can be found on one's own word processor under ‘fonts’ (this one is from Microsoft word).  And, I promise, I am not yelling—no matter how hard one tries, IT types ONLY UPPERCASE letters.  Thank you for your patronage,  and congrat's, Charlemagne, for having a font named after you!

Alcuin (pictured center), was one of the leading scholars of the Carolingian Renaissance, Wikimedia Commons

What does this have to do with art?  Script is lettering; it is calligraphy, it is writing, they are symbols of communication; and obviously needed for manuscripts.   They comprise the words written between the Illuminated Pages, and how history was passed down to us via scribes—by hand, before print—for religious and non-religious purposes.  It was so important that pictures were painted depicting it. This is one of the arts of which Charlemagne had great influence over.  It started in monasteries (new subject!). It is an art form and it is known as paleography.

Carolingian minuscule
 This is a retouched picture, which means that it has been digitally altered from its original version. Modifications: cropped detail. The original can be viewed here: Minuscule_caroline.jpg. Modifications made by "Paj". Wikimedia Commons

From the fantastic Medieval Writing website, Drs. Dianne and John Tillotson write: 
 "The development of Caroline Minuscule, or Carolingian minuscule, was a reform which increased the uniformity, clarity and legibility of handwriting. It was evidently developed in the late 8th century scriptorium of Charlemagne, or in those of the monasteries under his patronage, in the course of his conscious efforts to revive the literate culture of Classical Rome."
(Copyrighted text, Caroline Minuscule printed with permission of Dr. Dianne Tillitson)

Another description from Wikipedia says:  “[…] a "book-hand" first used at the monasteries of Corbie and Tours that introduced the use of lower case letters. A standardized version of Latin was also developed that allowed for the coining of new words while retaining the grammatical rules of Classical Latin. This Medieval Latin became the common language of scholarship and allowed administrators and travelers to make themselves understood across Europe.”[10]

During his reign, Charlemagne endeavored to bring about the respectable renaissance (rebirth) of society by providing a common language and writing style that allowed for communication across most of Europe. 
Today, the common language is English.
And, by hand or machine we can choose any lettering we wish!

Aren’t you glad to be able to communicate this way?

Mary B.

Additional information:
The Medieval Writing website has a superb glossary associated with the medieval period. While reading, just click on an underlined word and it will take you to a word definition.There are also numerous original images of texts with additional information on writing.   If you have an interest in calligraphy, or not, check it out!

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