Latin Paleography From Antiquity to the Renaissance [by A. M. Piazzoni]


The process of diversification of Latin writing that had begun in the 6th century developed under the presuppositions, and through the causes of the political, economic and social evolution of Europe. The unified administrative and cultural structure of the Western Roman Empire had been replaced by the formation of different autonomous kingdoms, in each of which a culture (and a script) had formed with its own characteristics.

At the end of the 8th century, a complex series of political, economic, social and cultural factors likewise contributed to initiating a process of return to European cultural unity. This occurred through the rebirth of the sacred and Roman empire, under the direction of the papacy and the Carolingian dynasty, which had replaced the Merovingian dynasty in the Frankish area.

In such a context, even if not yet united but as it was already tending towards unity, a script developed which spread during the three following centuries in all the regions where people spoke and wrote in Latin. More or less rapidly, this script substituted all the other scripts previously in use and became the common writing for the production of books.

This was the writing that paleographers call CAROLINE, which in the 12th century underwent an important albeit gradual evolution toward the GOTHIC script.

The process of reunification of Latin book writing also influenced documentary writing in some sense, where Caroline was used in a particular typification (diplomatic minuscule), which replaced the cursive that had been in use up until then. Between the tenth and twelfth centuries the characteristics of cursive writing (the use of a regular system of ligatures between letters), gradually diminished and finally ended up disappearing. Cursive script had been used for the preparation of public and private documents (with the exception of Italy, where cursive remained as part of the Classical tradition). This resulted in a growing analogy between book writing and documentary writing, and developed into the formation of a CANCELLERESCA MINUSCULE, which, for example in 14th-century Italy, was a script used both for documents and for books.