Go over to Laputan Logic and read today’s clear, illustrated entry (you may have to scroll and/or hit Stop; John’s trying out a stylesheet-based system, and it’s very slow and wonky). A sample:

By the 4th century things were really starting to go a little pear-shaped. Fortunately, Rome fell not long after and order was restored in the 8th century with the standardization of Carolingian Minuscule & Majuscule under the learned despotism of Charlemagne (although we should not fail to mention at this point that cute Irish script that you still see today adorning every theme pub from Boston to Bangalore).

Alas, the barbaric Goths could not be held at bay for long and even the Franks themselves eventually succumbed to their inner Germanity thus ushering in a Dark Age of condensed and nasty pointy black letters.

It took the cultural re-emergence of Renaissance Italy to finally reject the Northern Gothic style and to reassert the earlier rounder letter shapes. The Humanists took the Carolingian writing as its model (largely in the mistaken belief that it was the style of the ancient Romans). In concert with the contemporary revolution brought by the printing press, this Humanist style eventually supplanted the Gothic style throughout the whole of Europe and went on to become the basis for the typefaces that we still use today and its cursive form the basis of our handwriting style.


  1. Amazingly, that link from over a dozen years ago still works!

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