From Manuscript to Print: the Evolution of the Medieval Book


13th Century
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In this example the characteristics of Gothic minuscule are fully developed, including angular serifs, forked stems (see especially the letters b, h, and l), the preference for the letter d with a stem angled to the left rather than a vertical stem, and the use of a 7-like sign to indicate an ampersand. Scribes held the pen at an angle of about 45° in order to exploit the shading (that is, the variation in thickness of a penstroke) offered by a quill nib. Another characteristic of Gothic manuscripts is the abundant use of abbreviations, which enabled scribes to copy texts faster and to save parchment. Gothic manuscripts also tend to display prominent ruling drawn in lead or brownish "crayon." In contrast, the examples of Caroline and Protogothic minuscule have nearly-invisible ruling achieved with a stylus, a sharp implement used to scratch grooves into the parchment. On the whole, Gothic minuscule looks bolder, denser, and more elaborate than the scripts that preceded it. This distinct Gothic script was not, however, the result of a deliberate break with the past; it represents the cumulative effect of slight changes that emerged one by one over the course of centuries.

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The Life of St. Francis. Germany, ca. 1300.
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the Sacred Word
Private Prayer
Leather and Chains
Medieval Music
How the Classics Survived
Manuscripts in the Age of Print
Evolution of the Book
Appetite for Destruction
Manuscript Facsimiles
Cornell's Medieval Books
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