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Syriac: Usual Estrangela

Section 1: Jerusalem, SMMJ 180, ff. 54v-55r (7th/8th C.)

Book of Steps

The examples highlighted in this lesson come mainly from the 8th-11th centuries. I am calling it “usual” Estrangela because the common type of writing in these examples aligns closely with what people will consider a classic or typical kind of Estrangela, although even here there are also examples of certain shapes more often associated with Serto, and, as usual, in any case, every manuscript shows some peculiarities.

Specific features are indicated below generally only when distinct from those mentioned for DIYR 339 in the lesson on Earliest Estrangela.

 

Jerusalem, Saint Mark's Monastery, SMMJ 180, ff. 54v-55r. All rights reserved. Image provided by HMML.

This manuscript is an early copy of the Book of Steps (Liber graduum) and parts of the Asceticon of Abba Isaiah. The original order of folios has been obliterated by misbinding, and thus the present arrangement is wholly confused. (For a full folio-by-folio breakdown of the contents see hmmlorientalia blog post on this manuscript.) As in SMMJ 129, some notes in early Serto complement the Estrangela of the main text.

The script is very straightforward Estrangela, with sharp angles as in the bēt and ṭēt. When there is a little space at line end, the final letter has an extender to reach the edge. Here are some remarks on a few particulars:

Distinctive Letterforms
ālap
  • usually relatively short
  • if the following letter has a leading line it may be attached to the ālap, as in the first word (wp’š) of f. 55r, col. a, line 17
bēt
  • has a relatively narrow top horizontal
dālat / rēš
  • angled, with a thicker top line that is not as long as the vertical line
wāw
  • not closed, and the vertical line on the right hangs a little below the line
lāmad
  • reaches very high, sometimes crossing the line above
mim
  • not closed
nun
  • in its final form not attached to the previous letter
  • is at an angle noticeably more horizontal than when it is attached
semkat
  • not attached
šin
  • the shape of a small t
ālap
  • usually relatively short
  • if the following letter has a leading line it may be attached to the ālap, as in the first word (wp’š) of f. 55r, col. a, line 17
bēt
  • has a relatively narrow top horizontal
dālat / rēš
  • angled, with a thicker top line that is not as long as the vertical line
wāw
  • not closed, and the vertical line on the right hangs a little below the line
lāmad
  • reaches very high, sometimes crossing the line above
mim
  • not closed
nun
  • in its final form not attached to the previous letter
  • is at an angle noticeably more horizontal than when it is attached
semkat
  • not attached
šin
  • the shape of a small t