The fact must not, however, be lost sight of that, after all, the majuscule forms of writing, both capital and uncial, which have been under discussion, represent only one class of the handwritings of the periods in which they were practised, namely, the literary hand, used in the production of exactly written MSS., and therefore a hand of comparatively limited use. By its side, and of course of far more extensive and general use, was the cursive hand of the time, which under certain conditions, and particularly when a book was being produced, not for the general market, but for private or limited circulation, would invade the literary domain of pure majuscule writing and show its presence by the intrusion of letters which are proper to the cursive alphabet.
|Chronological notes.—6th century.|
|usque ad consulatum eundem quotiens persecutio | —quibus designatis temporibus facta est | —regnavit post passionem dom ini anno xxxviiii | —[o]rta est anno imperii eius xiii in qua petrus et | —apostoli gloriose occubuerunt|
Here the general character is a sloping uncial, but the letters b and d are cursive forms, and the cursive influence shows itself in the lengthening of vertical strokes.
The adaptation of this mixed hand, growing as it were by accident into a recognized style of writing, to more formal literary purposes would naturally follow. In the MS. of Gaius at Verona (Z W. Ex. 24) of the 5th century, besides the ordinary uncial forms, the cursive-shaped d and sare used. In the Florentine Pandects, written by many scribes, several cursive forms appear (Z. W. Ex.54; Pal. Soc. ii. pl. 103) in one portion of the MS. And fragments of a Græco-Latin glossary on papyrus (Comment. Soc. Gottingen, iv. 156 ; Rhein. Museum, v. 301) are also written in mixed characters. From these examples it appears that secular MSS., such as those relating to law and grammar, were not always subject in their production to the same strict calligraphic rules as MSS. for church use or of a specially sumptuous character. The scribe, writing rather for the scholar than for the public reader or book-collector, allowed himself a certain freedom and adopted a style which he could write more rapidly; and yet at the same time the preponderating element remained uncial. In the following facsimile from the Pandects of the Laurentian Library at Florence (Pal. Soc. ii. pl. 108), probably of the end of the 6th or beginning of the 7th century, it will be noticed that the cursive forms are used at the ends of lines, generally the weak point, so to say, of handwritings, where innovations make their first appearance.
|[proba]vi existimantis si quidem praeces | — [sp]onsalia durare ea quamvis in domo | —[nupt]ae esse coeperit si vero non praeces | —[ho]c ipso quod in domum deducta est | —[vide]ri sponsalia facta quam sententiam|
From the same MS. we give another specimen (Z. W. Ex. 54) of a hand which employs the cursive forms more generally, not only at the ends of lines, bnt promiscuously with the uncial forms, and illustrates a further stage of development.
|legum tramitem qui ab ur[be]— | temporibus ita esse confu[sum]— | humanae naturae capacit[ate]— | [stu]dium sacratissimis retro— | [con]stitutiones emendare|
But these examples represent the mixed hand in its simpler stages. A reference to the early MSS. in which it is employed by the writers of annotations shows that the proportion of the uncial and cursive forms depended a good deal on the taste or practice of the writer. He was necessarily limited in the space left for his notes, and was therefore constrained to use a more formal kind of writing than his ordinary current hand would have been, somewhat in the same way as in annotating a printed book we, at the present day, often employ a half-printing kicd of writing, accommodated to the narrow margins at our disposal. He therefore naturally used a disconnected and not a cursive form of writing ; and the negligent uncial, referred to above, seems to have been generally found most suitable for the purpose, qualified, as already described, by an admixture of cursive forms. It is the varying extent to wliich these cursive forms were admitted by different writers that here claims our attention. The marginal directions for the artist in the Quedlinburg fragment of an illustrated early Italic version of the Bible (Schum, Theolog. Studien, 1876) ; and the scholia and notes in such MSS. as the fragments of Juvenal in tbe Vatican (Z. W. Ex. 5), the Codex Bembinus of Terence (Z. W. Ex. 8; Pal. Soc. i. pl. 135), the Medicean Virgil (Z. W. Ex. 10; Pal. Soc. i. pl. 86), the Bible fragment at Weingarten (Z. W. Ex. 21), and others, exhibit the hand in various phases between the uncial and minuscule (or formal cursive) styles. In the scholia on the Bembine Terence, we have the hand in the fully developed condition, in which the minuscule element asserts itself so strongly that but few of the purely uncial forms remain, and to which the title of Half-uncial writing has been given. We find it employed as far back as the fifth century as a literary hand in the production of formally written MSS.
This writing, as will afterwards be seen, plays a very important part in the history of certain national hands. A modified form of the uncial, as just explained, and recommending itself no doubt from the greater ease with which it could be written than the more laborious pure uncial, it was quickly adopted as a book-hand ; and the not inconsiderable number of examples which are still extant prove how widely it was practised, at least within a certain area, chiefly comprising, it seems, Italy and Southern France. The earliest example appears to be the Fasti Consulares of the years 487-494 in a palimpsest at Verona (Z. W. Ex. 30). Of more importance is the MS. of St. Hilary at Rome, written before 509 or 510 (Z. W. Ex. 52; Pal. Soc. i. pl. 136). Other examples are the Sulpicius Severus of Verona, of theyear 517 (Z. W. Ex. 32) ; a list of popes to 523, and carried on to 530, together with a collection of canons, in a MS. from Corbie (Z. W. Ex. 40-42; Alb. Pal.11) ; a similar MS. at Cologne (Z. W. Ex. 37, 38, 44); a Bible commentary at Monte Cassino earlier than 569 (Z. W. Ex. 53) ; various MSS. at Milan, originally in the monastery of Bobio (Pal. Soc. i. pl. 137, 138, 161, 162) , a MS. in the Libri collection (Pal. Soc. ii. pl. 10) , a Hilary on papyrus at Vienna (Pal. Soc. ii. pl. 31) , and several MSS. at Lyons, Paris, and Cambrai (Alb. Pal. 6-9, 11, 13)—of the sixth or seventh centuries.
As in this style of writing a large proportion of the forms of letters which are afterwards found in the minuscule hand of the Carlovingian period are already developed, it has also been called the Præ-Caroline minuscule. This title, however, being anticipatory, it is better to give the hand an independent name, and that of Half-uncial is sufficiently distinctive; unless indeed the still more exact title of Roman Half-uncial is prefferable.
In the following specimen, taken from the MS. of St. Hilary on the Trinity in the Archives of St. Peter's at Rome, which, as a note records, was revised in the fourteenth year of Trasamund, King of the Vandals, that is, in A.D. 509-10, an almost complete alphabet is represented ; and it will be seen that while the round style of uncial writing is still maintained, there are very few of the letters which are really uncials.
|St. Hilary.—before A.D.509-10.|
|damnationem fidei esse | —te aboletur per alteram — | rursus abolenda est cu[ius]— | episcopi manum innocente[m]— | [lin]guam non ad falsiloquium coe[gisti] —|
The most beautifully executed MS. of early date in this style of hand is the Biblical commentary of Monte Cassino, written before the year 569 (Z. W. Ex. 53). A specimen is here selected from it as a standard example of the perfect half-uncial which formed the model for certain forms of the national hands which will be described afterwards.
|Biblical Commentary.—before A.D.569.|
|abolevet . natus ergo e— | ut quae primum fecev[at]— | crearet quia per erro[rem]— | mortua ut semper in—|
We must here break off our examination of the formal book-hands to take up that of the Roman Cursive writing which, as we have just seen, essentially affected the half-uncial, and which had an all-important influence in forming the later handwritings of Western Europe.