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see paleographypaleography
[Gr.,=early writing], term generally meaning all study and interpretation of old ways of recording language. In a narrower sense, it excludes epigraphy (the study of inscriptions) and includes only the writing that is done on such materials as wax, papyrus,
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; calligraphycalligraphy
[Gr.,=beautiful writing], skilled penmanship practiced as a fine art. See also inscription; paleography. European Calligraphy

In Europe two sorts of handwriting came into being very early.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a Latin and Greek script used between the fourth and ninth centuries A.D.; a variant of the common book hand. Uncial has large uniform rounded letters almost completely lacking in serifs. There are no ligatures, and word boundaries are not indicated. Typical letters are a, d, e, h, and m. Uncial was used mainly in religious manuscripts, but also in Greek and Latin texts. In the eighth century it was abandoned as a book hand, but for a time was retained in headings.


Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaia, O. A. Istoriia pis’ma v srednie veka, 2nd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1936.
Diringer, D. Alfavit. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from English).
Liublinskaia, A. D. Latinskaia paleografiia. Moscow, 1969.
Friedrich, J. Geschichte der Schrift. Heidelberg, 1966.
Jensen, H. Die Schrift in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart, 3rd ed. Berlin, 1969.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. of, relating to, or written in majuscule letters, as used in Greek and Latin manuscripts of the third to ninth centuries, that resemble modern capitals, but are characterized by much greater curvature and inclination and general inequality of height
2. pertaining to an inch or an ounce
3. pertaining to the duodecimal system
4. an uncial letter or manuscript
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005