Anglo-Saxon Minuscule

A script designed to write a Germanic vernacular, which had sounds with which the Latin alphabet could not cope. New letters were devised for these sounds. One of your tasks is to identify these new letters, and suggest their sources. Those of you who have learned Old English will have a head start: those who have not, consult those who have!

This is a page from a contemporary copy of King Alfred's translation of Gregory the Great's Cura Pastoralis, or 'Pastoral Care', written for bishops telling them how to administer and care for their 'flocks'. Gregory the Great was the Pope who sent Augustine as a missionary to England. King Alfred translated this book as the opening shot in his campaign against the declining standard of learning in England, and in his Preface, of which this is part, he explains how he came to instigate his programme of translations from the books 'which are most needful for all men to know'. This particular copy, now MS Hatton 20 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, is labelled žeos boc sceal to Wigoraceastre, 'this book is to go to Worcester'.

It is not in Alfred's own handwriting, but was made under his direction, between 890 and 897 AD.

© The Bodleian Library
This is not a very clear picture, because I had to reduce it so much: it merely shows you the general layout.

I have transcribed the first three and last five lines for you as a starter.

1. ....Transcribe only the portion between the two red lines.
...Go to the page on abbreviations.
....Go to the following page for a close-up version in slices.
....This also gives you instructions on where to find Old English characters in your word-processing ....package.

2. ....Copy out a line, using pen and ink. What do you notice about the mechanics of writing?
3. ....Where does this script come from?
.........Suggest origins for the distinctively Anglo-Saxon letters. Go to next page for some evidence for this.
4. ....Describe it in terms of
..............A. Overall aspect;
..............B. Individual letter forms.
5. ....Describe the layout.
6. ....There are alterations in the manuscript made by a later hand.
........What are they?
7. ....Are there any gaps between the words? .

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