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Greek Miniscule Script

Greek miniscule handwriting closely resembles modern cursive script where letters are joined together for speed of writing. Miniscule developed around the 9th century out of a form of cursive that had already been in use for a long time for private correspondence and business. Most New Testament manuscripts in existence today are written in miniscule script, though one is more likely to see images of manuscripts written in Uncial script because they are generally earlier in date.

Four types of miniscule handwriting are commonly acknowledged:

  • Codices Vetusissimi - 800-950 A.D.
  • Codices Vetusti - 950-1250 A.D.
  • Codices Recentiores - 1250-1456 A.D.
  • Codices Novelli - 1456 and onward

For more information about these four types of miniscule script, refer to Miniscule Chronology (Classics Palaeography course summary, Classics Department, University of Montanaa).

Miniscule handwriting can be quite beautiful and flowing, but it is notoriously difficult to read with its many ligatures (ie. joined letters) and abbreviations. Recently, I have been attempting to learn to read it and to find good sources to aid me in doing so.

The best book aids for learning to read miniscule that I have actually been able to get my hands on are:

  • Metzger, Bruce Manning, Manuscripts of the Greek Bible : an Introduction to Greek Palaeography, (New York : Oxford University Press, 1981).
  • Thompson, Edward Maunde, An Introduction to Greek and Latin Palaeography, (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1912), repr. New York, B. Franklin, 1965, 1973.
  • Gonzaga da Fonseca, L., S.J. Epitome introductionis in palaeographiam Graecam (Biblicam). Ed. altera. Romae, 1944.

Others references I have not yet found but would like to, include the following:

  • Gardthausen, V. Griechische Palaeographie. 1-2 Bd, 2te Aufl. Leipzig, 1911-13
  • van Groningen, B.A. Short Manual of Greek Palaeography. Leiden, 1940 (3rd ed, 1963).

What about online miniscule references? On ricoblog, way back on August 16, 2004, in a post titled M√ľnster NT MSS images online, Rick Brannon asked "...if anyone knows of an online reference detailing ligatures and abbreviations used in miniscule script, I'd appreciate knowing about it...". He may have found his answer by now, but there don't appear to be many such online references. In fact, the only detailed information I am aware of online is on Paul Halsall's excellent Byzantine Palaeography website. Please, someone also let me know if they are aware of others.

In addition to a good bibliography, he also has tables of common miniscule letter forms, ligatures, and abbreviations.

After pointing out these online resources, I'd like to share a "walk" through one of the manuscripts that can be found on the M√ľnster website that was pointed out by Rick. In subsequent posts, working in the book of Mark, I'd like to analyze the Vetusti type of miniscule script found in manuscript 1432, which dates to the 12th century. Caveat emptor...I am not an expert, so read with a grain of salt. And for those who know the material better than I, please feel free to offer any needed corrections. My simple hope is that perhaps someone will learn something new and enjoyable.

UPDATE (Sept. 1, 2005): It may be next week before I can find the time to begin this walk-through of manuscript 1432, but I hope to get to it as soon as possible.


Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Hi Bryan, I have just tagged this post on the new BATSIS system.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Bryan said...

Thanks Wayne. I noticed some posts about the BATSIS system and checked it out the other day. Looks like it will be quite useful.

6:19 PM  

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