Medieval manuscripts in Dutch Collections
Medieval manuscripts in Dutch Collections

Regional scripts

Beneventan script

The Beneventan bookhand derives most of its features from half-uncial, but some characteristics are heirs to late Roman cursive. It develloped in Southern Italyaround the middle of the 8th century and lasted for more than half a millennium; locally it survived even until the 16th century. As a script that predominated in Italy, however, it yielded generally to the Gothic littera textualis by the 13th century.

The name ‘Beneventan’ comes from the medieval duchy of Benevento in Southern Italy, with the Benedictine abbey of Montecassino as its cultural center. Most specimina of Beneventan script nowadays extant in Dutch libraries are written in this monastery. They all date from the 11th or early 12th century.


  • E.A. Loew. The Beneventan script. A history of the South Italian minuscule. Oxford, 1914 (2nd enlarged ed.: Rome, 1980).
  • Francis Newton. 'Fifty years of beneventan studies.' In: Archiv für Diplomatik, Schriftgeschichte, Siegel- und Wappenkunde50 (2004), pp. 327-345.
  • Virginia Brown. Terra Sancti Benedicti. Studies in the palaeography, history and liturgy of medieval Southern Italy. Roma, 2005.


  • The Hague, KB : ms. 73 B 24, f. 13; Montecassino, c. 1100


decem et septem. Ab altero

trecentos uiginti et tres.

Ab alio ducentos. Ab alio

uero trecentos. xxxvii

Septimo huius abbatis

anno ceperunt nor

manni melo duce

expugnare apuliam.

Qualiter autem uel qua occasi

one normanni ad istas


Insular script

By the 7th century common minuscule scripts in Ireland had developped a state mature enough to be used for luxurious codices. At the same time a majuscule form, going back to the uncial script introduced in England in the 6th century, spread over Britain. Both scripts account for a seperate writing phenomenon known as Insular script. Some of the masterpieces of medieval book production have been written in these bookhands. The highlight of Insular script fell between the 7th and the mid-9th century, altough it was practised up to the 19th century locally.

The long-argued difference between Latin script written in Ireland and Anglo-Saxon script is of little importance for the few manuscripts written in Insular script that rest in Dutch collections. On the other hand, the insular influence on the continent is not to be under­estimated. For instance, one of the preserved books has been localised with some probabillity in an Irish enclave in France.


  • W.M. Lindsay. Early Irish minuscule script. Oxford 1910.

  • Wolfgang Keller. Angelsächsische Palaeographie. Die Schrift der Angelsachsen mit besonderer Rücksicht auf die Denkmäler in der Volkssprache. 2 vol., Berlin, 1906-1922.

  • Janet Bately, Michelle P. Brown and Jane Roberts. A palaeographer's view. The selected writings of Julian Brown. London, 1993.

  • Michelle P. Brown. 'Fifty years of Insular palaeo­graphy, 1953-2003: an outline of some landmarks and issues.' In: Archiv für Diplomatik, Schriftgeschichte, Siegel- und Wappenkunde50 (2004), pp. 278-325.


  • Leiden, UB : ms. VLF 4, f. 20v; England (Northumbria?), first half 8th century




acrocerauniis incipit montibus

finitur helisponto amplectitur

praeter minores simus ∙xix∙xxu∙

passuum in eo epirosa acarnania ae

tolia phocis locris acaia messenia

laconica argolicis megaris attice boetia

iterum que ab alio mari eadem phoris

et locris doris phietis thesalia mag

nesia macedonia thracia omnis greciae

fabulositas. sicut et litterarum clari

tas ex hoc primum sinu effulsit, qua

propter paulum in eo commorabimur.



  • Leiden, UB : ms. VLQ 2, f. 60r; Wales, 9th or 10th century


Commune autem proprii et accidentis inseparabilis

quod praeter ea numquam consistant illa n> quibus considerantur.

Quemadmodum enim praeter rissibile non subsistit homo.

Nec praeter nigredinem subsistit Aethiops.

Et quemadmodum semper et omni adest proprium. sic et inseparabile

accidens. De propriis proprii et accidentis.

Differt autem quoniam proprium uni soli speciei adest.

Quemadmodum risibile homini. inseparabile vero acci

dens vt nigrum non soli Aethiopi. sed etiam omni corbo

adest et carboni et ebeno et quibusdam aliis.


Visigothic script

Visigothic script comes almost exlusively from the Iberian peninsula. There it was used by the Mozarabs, the Christians who since 711 lived under Arab rule, and therefore it is also called Mozarabic script. Like other destinctive ‘national’ bookhands it remained comparatively isolated and survived for a long time, from the early 8th until the 12th century.

Only two codices in Visigothic script are preserved in Dutch public collections, both of them now in Leiden and both of them remarkable in their own way. The oldest one does not seem to originate from Spain, but from a scriptorium in Lyons in Central France. The other one testifies of the difficulty in dating Visigothic books: this Latin-Arabic glossary (partly written on paper!) has been attributed to the 9th century, but also to the 12th and even to the 13th century.


  • Agustín Millares Carlo. Tratado de paleografía española. Madrid 1983.
  • Agustín Millares Carlo. Corpus de códices visigóticos. [Las Palmas de Gran Canaria] 1999.
  • Jesús Alturo. 'La escritura visigótica. Estado de la cuestión.' In: Archiv für Diplomatik, Schriftgeschichte, Siegel- und Wappenkunde 50 (2004), pp. 347-386.


  • Leiden, UB : ms. VLF 111, f. 2v; Lyons, first half 9th century



Satis praecum datum deo

Quamuis satis numquam reis

Fiat precatu numinis.

Abitum forensem da puer

Dicendum amicis est habe

Ualeque, quod fit mutuum

Quod cum per horas quattuor

Inclinet ad meridiem.

Monendus est iam sosias.


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