This script was christened Uncial either because it was 'curved' (Latin uncus, 'a hook'), or because the letters were an uncia 'inch' high - if indeed this was the script which St Jerome was talking about. 'Christened' is an apposite word, since although this script was first developed in the later Roman Empire (2nd to 4th centuries AD) for use in literary and other formal manuscripts, it was taken over by the early Christian church as its major bookhand.

Here is a facsimile of a piece (not a full page) of Roman Uncial script from Rome: Vatican Library MS Basilicanus D.182, folio 298 r. It is a theological text, copied in Italy after AD 510. It is workmanlike rather than elegant: next week we shall see the heights of artistry to which this script can rise.

Roman Uncial


  1. Transcribe it, using ‘capital’ letters;
    Go to a close-up version of the facsimile.
  1. Copy out a line, using pen and ink.
    What do you notice about the mechanics of writing?
  1. How does this script differ from the Roman Rustic script you did last week?
    Look at
  • .............. Overall aspect;
  1. How are the letters drawn in relation to the baseline and headline?
  1. Do the letter forms look more like upper- or lower-case modern letters?
    What gives that impression?
    Which could you get mixed up?
  1. Why do you think it has changed in aspect and form??
  1. Is there any punctuation?
  1. Are there any gaps between the words yet?
  1. Why are there lines over the top of letters in lines 1, 4 and 6?

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