Writing in a nutshell

I. The history and development of writing
II. Abbreviations
III. Samples of short forms

I. The history and development of writing

Basic information about writing that can be obtained at first sight is whether we are dealing with majuscule or minuscule. We all use both of them on a daily basis. Majuscule is writing where the letters are all the same size, e.g. A B C D G J P. Minuscule is when the letters are of different heights (some stems of letters are extended up, others down), e.g. a b c d g j p. A precise definition of the type of writing we are dealing with when relating to hand-written materials from various ages requires much more advanced knowledge and is the essence of writing science.

At first, the evolution of writing was connected with the type of material and the writing tools used. The fluidity and freedom of dashes depended on what the writer wrote on and with which tools. This also influenced the shape of letters, e.g. it could force the use of only straight lines.

Another factor which shaped the development of writing was the expectations connected with it. Writing was to convey content, however, it often also had the objective of creating an aesthetic impression on the readers. On the other hand, mankind wanted to write down information increasingly quickly, and this forced a lower level of care about the aesthetics of texts and the loss of legibility. In the end, reconciling the fast writing of contents and maintaining the high level of aesthetics of hand writing turned out to be impossible. This meant that writers increasingly rejected majuscule writing for minuscule. Next, there was a move towards a more individualized form of cursive writing, which facilitated fast writing. There was also writing with various applications. Majuscule writing was used for more ceremonial texts, e.g. inscriptions or great books, minuscule was a more general type of writing, and cursive was for practical usage – for fast writing of documents of less importance.

Trends in art also influenced the development of writing. The shapes of letters reflected similar movements to those that shaped the development of art and architecture. And as in art, the development of writing over the ages was conditioned by local influences and differences.

The history of Latin writing (in a nutshell) is opened by capital. This was an elegant majuscule with a regular, geometric shape, thanks to which it was possible to carve in stone or other hard materials. Ancient Romans used the more rapid and less careful older and younger cursive for fast writing.

When writers began to use other writing materials than stone, which were much easier and faster to write on, other types of writing developed. The first of them was uncial – writing that was still majuscule but already rounder and lighter, and easier to write on soft material; next was half uncial, which was minuscule writing. With their roots in ancient capital, uncial and half uncial were the start for other types of writing used in Europe.

In the middle ages in our part of Europe, Carolingian minuscule became popular. This type of writing is connected with the rule of Charles the Great and the renaissance in art, known as the Carolingian Renaissance. This writing was used between the IX and XII centuries and also reached Poland.

At the turn of the XII and XIII centuries, following the same direction as art and architecture, writing started to change, taking on stronger Gothic forms – letters became longer and lines sharply broken. In this way, Gothic writing was established, and was used until the end of the middle ages. Gothic forms were majuscule, minuscule and cursive, taking new forms that differed locally or were designated for various uses (e.g. Blackletter, Fraktur, Kurrent and Bastarda). From Gothic writing, German national writing developed and, thanks to this, Gothic elements stayed for the longest period in writing in German-language countries.

Gothic writing was ousted during the Renaissance, when a return to ancient patterns took place in many areas of art. At that time antiqua was created – this was elegant book writing based on Carolingian minuscule, and indirectly on the previous ancient scripts. For clerical use, however, a cursive writing was adopted, known as italics. From renaissance writing grew modern national writing and, as a result, modern writing was shaped.