Bede was an inspiration to Albinum Alcuin of Britain, who had a major role in the Carolingian renaissance. Alcuin was invited to Charlemagne's court, where he helped develop a script that became the standard across Charlemagne's realm. The text above is from a dialogue between Charlemagne and Alcuin, and it is written in the Carolingian script that Alcuin fostered. (Parker Library 206, fol. 101r, by permission of the Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.)

On the Liturgy

Carolingian Script

In the 8th century, Carolingian handwriting developed in Europe. It was named for Charlemagne, who ruled France and much of what is now Germany. It turned out to be immensely successful, prevailing in Western Europe for three centuries. Later, around 1400, it was rediscovered by Italian Humanists, and it has been used in Western books and newspapers ever since. It is a perfect book script, with clear, broad, round letters that are generally unconnected.

Below are some representative letters. (Information about uncial letters can found in the Majuscules III lesson, whereas examples of half-uncial letters can be seen here.)

"a" is uncial. "d" is half-uncial.
"e" is rounded and
sometimes has an
extended final stroke.
"g" is open at
the bottom.
"i" is generally
"m" is half-uncial.
"r" has a wavy
stroke to the
"s" is upright.
"t" is short, not
going above
the headline.
"y" is generally

Exercise:  Which letter above is the most different from its modern version? Hint: It has more curves today.      

Striving for clarity, the creators of the Carolingian script used a limited number of ligatures. The principal ones are below. Some, like "ct" and "st" are easier to understand than others.

Characters consisting of two or more joined letters.
"ae" can be written
as a ligature.
"ae" can also be
written as an "e"
with a tail
(e caudata).
"ct" can be written
as a ligature.
"et" can be written
as an ampersand
"nt" can be written
as a ligature,
especially at the
end of words.
"or" can be written
as a ligature.
The "rt" ligature
disappeared early
because it looked
too much like st.
"st" can be written
as a ligature.

Exercise:  Which letter is most commonly involved
in ligatures?

Exercise:  Slight variations in scripts must be expected. Can you type the letters below? They do not look exactly like our examples above.


Exercise:  The words below are written in the Carolingian style. Please type each one:

Challenge: Please type this phrase:

for help, look at this


Parker Library images from MS. 206, used with permission of the Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.