Background Information About The Fashion During The Harlem Renaissance History of Script – 8th to 15th Century AD

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History of Script – 8th to 15th Century AD

8th Century AD – Carolingian Script

A distinguished scholar from York named Alcuin is invited by emperor Charlemagne in 780 AD to direct the palace school at Aachen. One of Alcuin’s students, Godesalc, is commissioned by Charlemagne to create what later becomes known as the Godesalc Evangelistary, an impressively calligraphic manuscript of the gospels. The book is completed in April of 783 and is the first expression of Carolingian minuscule, relevant by its use of conventional of upper and lowercase letters. Alcuin continues his study of calligraphy by traveling to Rome to research letters and manuscripts of Roman tradition, adding minuscule letters in the tradition of the monks. In 796, Alcuin becomes abbot of the monastery at Tours, leading production if a great number of prolific, legible and lucid manuscripts.

11th – 15th Century AD – The Gothic ‘black-letter’

The clear script of Carolingian manuscripts departs leading into the later Middle Ages. The weight and density of script in Northern Europe in the 11th century becomes known as ‘black letter’ due to the darkness and density of the ink and compact type. Economic woes and dramatic medieval style pervade these times. Dark, dreary, angular, broad-nibbed pen strokes are used, compact on the page, saving money on parchment. Universities spring up and books are in high demand. Printing is a German invention, cropping up in the 1450’s using this black-letter style. Gutenberg’s Bible is one of the first European printed books utilizing this angular style of time, remaining the convention in German printing up to the 20th century. The Italian humanists of the Renaissance reject this style of heavy printing, considering it as barbaric as their opinion of the Middle Ages, repudiating it as Gothic.

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