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The fix former alphabets, are before the age of CHARLEMAGNE; the three latter follow it. The characters of the above alphabets are more diftinguished by their names than by their forms, which indicate that they are all of Roman extraction.

Each nation, in adopting the letters of the Romans, added thereto a taste and manner peculiar to itself, that obviously distinguished it from the writings of all other people. Hence arofe that difference of taste in the writings of the Lombards, Spaniards, Saxons, French, Germans, and Goths; and all the strange turns obfervable in the ancient writings of the Francic-Gauls or Merovingians, and those of the Carlovingians. their fucceffors, may be traced to the fame fource.

From those distinctions proceeded the name of National Writing. Writing in Italy was uniform until the irruption of the Goths, when it was disfigured by the taste of that barbarous people. In 569, the Lombards, having poffeffed themselves of all that part of the empire, except Rome and Ravenna, introduced another form of writing, which is termed Lombardic. As the popes used the Lombardic manner in their Bulls, the appellation of Roman was fometimes given to it in the eleventh century. Though the dominion of the Lombards continued no longer than about two hundred and fix years, the name of their writing was still current beyond the Alps, from the feventh century to the beginning of the thirteenth, and then ceafed. — Learning having declined in Italy as in other quarters, the art of writing degenerated there likewise into what we call Modern Gothic, of which we shall speak presently.

The Goths or Vifigoths, in their incurfions into Spain, introduced. the Vifigothic or Spanish Gothic form of writing into that country; but it was abolished in a provincial fynod, held at Leon in 1091, when the Latin letters were established for all public inftruments, though these characters were occafionally used in private tranfactions, for upwards of three centuries afterwards.

Saxon writing admits of various diftinctions; namely, the Anglo-Saxon, Britanno-Saxon, and Dano-Saxon, of which we shall speak fully hereafter. Writing in France was more various. The Gauls, on their being subjected by the Romans, adopted their manner of writing; but, by


adding fomething of their own afterwards, they gave rife to the Gallican or Roman Gallic mode.

The Franks, a people of Germany, having conquered part of Gaul, displayed even in writing, their love of ease, and averfion to all constraint. Their characters are called Francic-Gallic, or Merovingian, because this kind of writing was practifed under the kings of the Merovingian race. It took place about the close of the fixth century, and prevailed till the beginning of the ninth.

CHARLEMAGNE (5), zealous for the revival of learning, improved the characters which before his time had been used in Germany; and this improvement occafioned another distinction in writing, called the Caroline, which declined in the twelfth century, and totally disappeared in the thirteenth, when it was fucceeded in Germany by the Modern Gothic.

The Caroline writing having degenerated, was reftored by HUGH CAPET, about the year 987. This reformed mode of writing, hath acquired the name of Capetian from its founder. It was much practifed till about the middle of the twelfth century, but in the thirteenth it degenerated into the Modern Gothic. The writing called Capetian was used in England and in Germany, as well as in France, during the period above mentioned.

The Modern Gothic, which spread itself all over Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, is improperly fo called, because it does not derive its origin from the writing anciently used by the Goths and Vifigoths, in Italy and Spain, but this Modern Gothic is the most barbarous or worst kind of writing; it took its rife in the decline of the arts, among the lazy schoolmen, who had the worst taste; it is nothing more than the Latin writing degenerated. This writing began in the twelfth century, and was in general use (especially among monks and schoolmen) in all parts of Europe, till the restoration of the arts, in the fifteenth century, and longer in Germany and the northern nations: Our statute books are still printed in Gothic letters.

The most barbarous writing of the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries, was not fo bad as the Modern Gothic. This kind of writing

(5) He began to reign A. D. 814.

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is fo diverfified, that it is not easy to defcribe its great variety; the abbreviations introduced by the writers were fo numerous, that it was difficult to read them; and this was one of the causes of the great ignorance of thofe times. Those different forms, however, were not fo exclufively peculiar to the nations among whom they originated, as never to be used by their neighbours; on the contrary, we find Lombardic and Gothic fometimes in France: this would happen from ecclefiaftics of one nation being transplanted into another. Thus we find many M. SS. written in England, in the Roman, Caroline, Capetian, and Modern Gothic letters, which is easily accounted for, when we confider, that our bishops and mitred abbots were frequently foreigners, who brought with them many ecclefiaftics from foreign parts; these wrote the hands of the refpective countries where they had been educated.

The learned are not agreed with refpect to the origin of what is called National Writing; fome will have it, that the Roman manner prevailed throughout the weft, until the irruption of the barbarous nations of the north, in the fifth and fixth centuries; the Goths (fay they) first introduced their mode of writing in Italy, instead of the Roman manner; the Vifigoths did the like in Spain, the Franks in Gaul, and the Saxons in England; the Lombards having made themselves masters of the country that bears their name, fubftituted their own peculiar form of writing, and established it in every part of Italy.

According to others, the Romans were in poffeffion of various forms of writing; but it is fuppofed, that the barbarous nations introduced fome of their own letters, in the writings compofed of capitals and finall letters; that the curfive form, or running-hand, peculiar to each nation, was used in grants and contracts, and found admittance likewife in M. SS. after the middle of the feventh century.

However, we are of opinion, that the different modes of writing in Italy, Spain, France, England, and Germany, were derived from the Roman alone. While Rome continued the centre of all the provinces of the empire, her manner of writing generally prevailed in each; but the empire being difmembered, and all the western provinces difunited, a change was produced; not that the conquerors added any


new characters to the Roman writing, but they disfigured it; and, by their false taste and ignorance, diftinguished their writing from that of their neighbours: the genius and difpofition of the different people, had no small share in producing this diversity.


The idea that all the writings of the several nations laft mentioned, is derived from the Roman, is natural and fatisfactory; it tends to prove. the distinction of national writing, and is of great affistance towards discovering the age of manufcripts: for, though we may not be able exactly to ascertain the time when a M. S. was written, we may nearly determine its age. For example, if a writing is Merovingian, it may be declared without hesitation not to be fubfequent to the ninth, nor prior to the fifth century: if another is Lombardic, it may be affirmed to be pofterior to the middle of the fixth, and anterior to the thirteenth; fhould it be Saxon, it cannot be of an earlier date than the feventh, nor of a later than about the middle of the twelfth, especially with regard to M. SS..




Forms of Letters Phenician Letters, and their De-. rivatives Pelafgic Letters, and their Derivatives Roman Letters, and thofe derived from them of ancient Alphabets and Writing.




LEMENTARY characters or letters, being nothing more than marks for founds, as we have already demonftrated, the confideration of their FORMS, hath not as yet been a neceffary object of our attention; for in the point of view we have hitherto confidered them, their forms were of no importance, because it is from the founds, of which they are fignificant, and not from their forms, or even pofitions, that they derive their powers; for whether they are placed from right to left, as practised by some Eastern nations, or from left to right, as is at present generally practifed in Europe, or in perpendicular lines, as in Tartary, and fome other parts of Afia, is not of the leaft confequence; because these marks will equally combine into words, fignificant of the founds of language, in whatever manner they may be placed.

The confideration of the forms and pofitions of letters, now naturally presents itself; a competent knowledge of which, is abfolutely neceffary for ascertaining the age and authenticity of infcriptions, manuscripts, charters, and ancient records.

Many authors are of opinion, that letters derive their forms from the pofitions of the organs of speech in their pronunciation. Monfieur VAN HELMONT hath taken great pains to prove, that the Chaldaic characters are the genuine alphabet of nature, because, according to


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