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

4.1 So-called “elegant” capital

Roman Book Capital has long been termed in the paleographic tradition by the name, rustic, as opposed to a supposedly ELEGANT CAPITAL. These terms are rather improper, because they presuppose the existence of one script that is more refined and another one that is less polished, but this is not the case. Some similarities have been observed between the so-called "elegant capital" and the epigraphs containing the verses of Pope Damasus (366-384). These epigraphs were designed by the calligrapher Furio Dioniso Filocalo, and this has led some paleographers to think that the elegant Capital was an imitation of epigraphic writing from the age of Pope Damasus, which would therefore date it to the second half of the 6th century. In fact, it has long been proven (by Jean Mallon, between 1939 and 1952) that this elegant writing is a pure and simple calligraphic game, a late variety of the Roman capital to be traced back to the Roman setting of the Gothic period (early 6th century). The most characteristic example would be the Vat. lat. 3256 (called the Augustan Virgil), which contains works by Virgil and dates from the 5th to the 6th century (a part of the manuscript is located in Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Lat. F. 416); from a paleographical perspective, it is rather to be categorized as Roman Book Capital, albeit of a late and calligraphic variety.

Vat. lat. 3256

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