Stiftsbibliothek St. Gallen
Stiftsbibliothek St. Gallen


Fascination of the Alphabet – the Evolution of Latin Script
26 November 2016 until 12 March 2017

Based on its unique collection of manuscripts, the Abbey Library of St. Gall presents the history of Latin script from Antiquity to the Renaissance.

The Early Middle Ages saw the emergence of many different regional scripts, which were based on Antique scripts. Under Charlemagne († 814) a countermovement took place which led to a standardisation of lettering. Carolingian minuscule was the standard script in much of Europe from the 9th until the 12th century.

In the Late Middle Ages, other scripts began to appear. While the most luxurious manuscripts were adorned with complex calligraphy, the writers of books on trading or everyday topics attached more importance to speedy writing. This led to the development of cursive writing with many abbreviations. Modern readers tend to find that legibility was sometimes neglected in the interests of speed.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, humanists south of the Alps reverted to the use of Carolingian minuscule, which they further developed, thus laying the foundations for our modern typefaces.