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     Insular or scriptura scottica was a combination of Roman Half-Uncials and the traditional Celtic manuscript, which stared to develop in Ireland after the first missionaries arrived there. It is worth to mention that in Celtic manuscript, calligraphers used to leave a space between words so as the reader would be able to separate the string of letters into words more quickly. This form of letter served as the base of the later Gaelic style, which is in use even today in certain Irish texts.
     The characters are round and full, mostly written with a slightly angled pen, which gives them a strong bow with ascenders bending right. We often see the letters joined together at the baseline or waistline, and the horizontal stroke of the last letter in a word is extended in order to connect to the first letter of the next word. Letters e and t especially are used for that purpose. Further on, a heavy triangle perches at the top of ascenders.
The initial letters are drawn in very vivid colors and are very complex. They are used to decorate the pages and often are intersecting the text creating elaborate visual puzzles.
     The crowning achievement of the Celtic schools of manuscripting was the "Book of Kells", a 339 leaf masterpiece containing over 2100 ornate letters and full pagers. It was worked on the island of Iona, in 795 A.D. When Viking invaders forced the monks away, an end was put to the evolution of Insular manuscripts.
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Insular script termed 'artificial uncial,' early 8th century: note interwoven gloss in Anglo-Saxon miniscule from late 9th century (British Library, London Ms. Cotton Vespasian, AI, folio 55, verso)
The Book of Durrow, opening page, the Gospel of Saint Mark, c. A.D. 680
The Book of of Kells, text page with ornamental initials, c. A.D. 794-806
© 2004 Natalia Rifai