3. Protogothic into Gothic

From the eleventh century to the twelfth, Caroline forms gave way to an early Gothic script we call Protogothic. Protogothic is much more angular and less rounded than Caroline. Part of the shift from rounded to spiky forms was aesthetically inspired, but it was also practical. With the increase in literacy and the need for books for worship, study, and learning, scribes were called upon to copy longer texts more quickly. The upright features of these later scripts allowed them to fit many more words on every line and often decreased the number of strokes needed to compose each letterform, making it faster to write. The tradeoff for the speed of production and economy of space, however, was a diminishment of the ease of reading.

Beinecke MS 315: Gemma animae, etc.

Beinecke MS 315. Honorius of Autun, Gemma animae. England, between 1175 and 1200.

Beinecke MS 315 demonstrates the upright quality of Protogothic script. 

Takamiya MS 91: Unidentified work on church rites

Takamiya MS 91. Work on Church rites. England (?), between 1150 and 1175.

Compare the number of words per line in Takamiya MS 91, with its well-formed, well-spaced letterforms, with that in Beinecke MS 315, the example of Protogothic. 

Marston MS 22: Book of Hours, Sarum use

Marston MS 22. Book of Hours, Use of Sarum. Oxford (?), c. 1250. 

In the late twelfth century, Gothic reached its apogee and had become a very narrow script with significant angularity. To add decoration, otiose strokes were added to the ends of the upright forms.

As Marston MS 22 demonstrates, larger Gothic letters, formed using several simple strokes to build up a more complex letterform, could be intricate. The reverse could also be true, and many university texts have such simplistic letterforms that letters such as m, n, i, u, v, etc., could resemble a long line of i’s, affecting legibility. 

Takamiya MS 80: Psalter

Takamiya MS 80. Psalter. England, 13th century. 

Takamiya MS 80 shows a typically English version of Gothic used in a psalter text. The elegant Gothic textura used for in this manuscript is a gorgeous script, but unquestionably it was time consuming to produce. Almost every letter consists of multiple strokes of the pen, which would have had to be lifted after almost every stroke, and further careful penwork was needed to create the elegant feet of each minim (single vertical stroke).

3. Protogothic into Gothic