I began my dissertation for the Icon Diploma with lettering discovered in Mont St Michel, France. The style is a majuscule script known as ‘uncial’, written in capital letters, in common use from the 4th to the 8th century by both Latin and Greek scribes.
I stumbled upon this exceptional 8th century lettering some fifteen years ago, whilst on a family holiday in Normandy. Mont St Michel is home to some beautiful illuminated manuscripts, some of which can be seen by request in the town hall at Avranches, nearby.
Whilst there, I bought the book “l’Enluminure Romane au Mont-Saint-Michel” by Monique Dosdat which includes several fragments from a Book of Gospels. There are only a few of these pages which survive – the author and dedication are unknown.
Their history is intriguing as they were discovered bound into a later manuscript, at Mont St Michel. The two pages are identified by their full titles:
- “Fragment d’un Evangeliaire, Vllle siecle, Annonce aux Bergers, Luke 2, 12. Avranches, BM, ms 48.
- “Fragment d’un Evangeliaire, Vllle siecle, Guerison du Paralytique, Marc, 2, 5-12 Avranches, BM, ms 71.
The author Dosdat writes: “These pages are an impressive witness of a beautiful, perfectly legible uncial lettering, its characters uniting a classic uncial calligraphy born in 4th Century Italy under the influence of Irish round hand lettering”.
This scribe had mastered the art of consistency, spacing, layout and rhythm so that the text itself is a work of art.
So let’s look at the lettering as examples for use on icons. This script would lend itself to early Celtic or French saints. The following studies are my second attempt at translating this quilled hand into painted letters. I have ‘waisted’ the uprights and some letters will need to be refined but feel free to print them off and use them if you wish. I can see the serifs on the letter ‘C’ are pretty clumsy – so use the body of the letter C instead.
Thanks for reading.