The polyglot and poly-alphabetical Middle Ages

An exceptional collection of seven alphabets (two Hebrew, one Greek, one ‘Chaldaean’, one ‘Egyptian’, one runic, and one of obscure origin entitled ‘Norma’) is preserved in a manuscript in the Vatican library (Reg.lat.338) composed in Northern France or perhaps Germany and dating, probably, from the first half of the 9th century AD.  Written in Caroline minuscule (the script that would be adopted by the Humanists and the printers of the Renaissance), the alphabets reflect a remarkable knowledge of non-Western writing. Though partly fanciful, the alphabets are learned enough to challenge the still-pervasive notion that the early Middle Ages were a ‘dark’, ignorant period.

Thanks to Arthur Westwell (@ArthurWestwell) for bringing this incredible manuscript to my attention.

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The Hebrew Alphabet: Haec sunt litteras hebreorum (These are the letters of the Hebrews)

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The Greek alphabet: Haec sunt caracteres grecas (‘These are the Greek characters’) 

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The Syriac alphabet: Haec sunt caracteres que Caldei et Asyrii utuntur (‘These are the characters used by the Chaldeans and the Assyrians’) ; The Egyptian alphabet: Hec sunt caracteres Egyptiorum quas utuntur (‘These are the characters used by the Egyptians’)

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The Runic alphabet and The “Norma” alphabet

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