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Insular Manuscripts: Paleography

Section 7: What Happens Next?


Insular minuscule continues to be used in Ireland for the rest of the Middle Ages. In England from the end of the tenth century, Insular minuscule comes to be restricted to the vernacular only. Once contact is reestablished with Continental centers after the period of Viking raids, English scribes begin to use Caroline minuscule for Latin texts. (We will look at Caroline Minuscule in the next unit.) We have many manuscripts from later Anglo-Saxon England (from around the 970s to the end of the 11th C.) with Latin texts in Caroline minuscule accompanied by Old English texts in Insular minuscule. Similarly, Irish scribes who went to the Continent continued to use Insular minuscule for Old Irish glosses in manuscripts whose main Latin texts were written in Caroline minuscule.

Although peculiarly Insular scripts fade as scribal culture increasingly becomes Europe-wide from the Carolingian period on, the innovations of Insular scribes in layout, word separation, punctuation, abbreviation, and other paratextual features were extremely influential in the scribal practice on the Continent in subsequent centuries.

If you read Latin, go to the Insular Scripts Transcription lesson to try transcribing Insular Half-Uncial and Insular Minuscule. Otherwise, go directly to the Carolingian Paleography lesson.