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Originally appearing in Volume V20, Page 577 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MISS. in the same solid half-uncial hand are still to be seen in the Chapter Library of Durham, this style of writing having been practised more especially in the north of England. But in addition to this calligraphic book-writing, there was also a lighter form of the round letters which was used for less sumptuous MSS. or for more ordinary occasions. Specimens of this hand are found in the Durham Cassiodorus (Pal. Soc. pl. 164), in the Canterbury Gospels (Pal. Soc. pl. 7; Cal. Anc. MSS. pt. ii., pls. 17, 18), the Epinal Glossary (E. Eng. Text Soc.), and in a few charters (Fats. Anc. Charters, pt. i., 15; ii., 2, 3; Pal. Soc. 1o), one of which, of A.D. 778, written in Wessex, is interesting as showing the extension of the round hand to the southern parts of England. The examples here enumerated are of the 8th and 9th centuries—the earlier ones being written in a free natural hand, and those of later date bearing evidence of decadence. Indeed the round hand was being rapidly displaced by the more convenient pointed hand, which was in full use in England in the middle of the 8th century. How late, however, the more calligraphic round hand could be continued under favouring circumstances is seen in the Liber Vitae or list of benefactors of Durham (Cat. Anc. MSS. pt. ii., pl. 25; Pal. Soc. pl. 238), the writing of which would, from its beautiful execution, be taken for that of the 8th century, did not internal evidence prove it to be of about the year 840. The pointed hand ran its course through the 8th, 9th, and loth centuries, until English writing came under the influence of the foreign minuscule. The leading characteristics of this hand in the 8th century are regularity and breadth in the formation of the letters and a calligraphic contrast of heavy and light strokes —the hand being then at its best. In the 9th century there is greater lateral compression, although regularity and correct formation are maintained. But in the loth century there are signs of decadence. New forms are introduced, and there is a disposition to be imitative. A test letter of this latter century is found in the letter a with obliquely cut top, a. The course of the progressive changes in the pointed hand may be followed in the Facsimiles of Ancient Charters in the British Museum and in the Facsimiles of Anglo-Saxon MSS. of the Rolls Series. The charters reproduced in these works have survived in sufficient numbers to enable us not only to form a fairly accurate knowledge of the criteria of their age, but also to recognize local peculiarities of writing. The Mercian scribes appear to have been very excellent penmen, writing a very graceful hand with much delicate play in the strokes. On the other hanc' the writing of Wessex was heavier and more straggling and is in such strong contrast to the Mercian hand that its examples may be easily detected with a little practice. Turning to books in which the pointed hand was employed, a very beautiful specimen, of the 8th century, is a copy of Bede's Ecclesiastical[NATIONAL HANDS History (fig. 42) in the University Library at Cambridge (Pal. Soc. pls. 139, 140), which has in a marked degree that breadth of style which has been referred to. Not much later is another copy of the same work in the Cottonian Library (Pal. Soc. pl. 141; Cat. Anc. MSS. pt. ii., pl. 19), from which the following facsimile is taken. 9icurSut tPotu 9me j trot olbtLutiatD•lutrnuLv-' 1r himot i, io 9-3 ar nlwwr (tus sui tempora gerebat. Uir uenerabilis oidiluuald, qui multis annis in monasterio quod dicitur Inhry—) For an example of the beginning of the 9th century, a MS. of miscellanea, of A.D. 811-814, also in the Cottonian Library, may be referred to (Pal. Soc. pl. 165; Cat. Anc. MSS. pt. ii. Plate 24); and a very interesting MS. written in the Wessex style is the Digby MS. 63 of the middle of the century (Pal. Soc. pl. 168). As seen in the charters, the pointed writing of the loth century assumes generally a larger size, and is rather more artificial and calligraphic. A very beautiful example of the book-hand of this period is found in the volume known as the Durham Ritual (Pal. Soc. pl. 240), which, owing to the care bestowed on the writing and the archaism of the style, might at first sight pass for a MS. of higher antiquity. In the latter part of the loth century the foreign set minuscule hand began to make its way into England, consequent on increased intercourse with the Continent and political changes which followed. In the charters we find the foreign and native hands on the same page: the body of the document, in Latin, in Carolingian minuscules; the boundaries of the land conveyed, in the English hand. The same practice was followed in books. The charter (in book form) of King Eadgar to New Minster, Winchester, A.D. 966 (Pal. Soc. pls. 46, 47), the Benedictional of Bishop iEthelwold of Winchester (pls. 142, 144) before A.D. 984, and the MS. of the Office of the Cross, A.D. 1012—IO20 (pl. 6o), also written in Winchester, are all examples of the use of the foreign minuscule for Latin. The change also which the national hand underwent at this period may certainly be attributed to this foreign influence. The pointed hand, strictly so-called, is replaced by a rounder or rather square character, with lengthened strokes above and below the line. tumuli, ',errhtr > n,. pear, Vllfb ovFtc be : .:. Rc e:1( anu FOILUC . all Pre pu ' 111 fiO1'au XWCfl (manan he wns his mega. sceard freonda ge fylled on folcstede besingen yet s9cge. and his sunu forint. on wnlstowe wundum'forgrunden.) This style of writing becomes the ordinary English hand down to the time of the Norman Conquest. That event extinguished the national hand for official purposes—it disappears from charters; and the already established use of the Carolingian minuscule in Latin MSS. completed its exclusion as the hand-writing of the learned. It cannot, however, be doubted that it still lingered in those parts of the country where foreign influence did not at once penetrate, and that Englishmen still continued to write their own language in their own style of writing. But that the earlier distinctive national hand was soon overpowered by foreign teaching is evident in English MSS. of the 12th century, the writing of which is of the foreign type, although the English letter thorn, p, survived and continued in use down to the 15th century, when it was transformed to y.
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