Roman square capitals

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Roman square capitals, also called capitalis monumentalis, inscriptional capitals, elegant capitals and quadrata, are an ancient Roman form of writing, and the basis for modern capital letters.

Square capitals were used to write inscriptions, and less often to supplement everyday handwriting. When written in documents this style is known as Latin book hand.[1] For everyday writing the Romans used a current cursive hand known as Latin cursive.[2] Notable examples of square capitals used for inscriptions are found on the Pantheon, Trajan's Column, and the Arch of Titus, all in Rome. Square capitals are characterized by sharp, straight lines, supple curves, thick and thin strokes, angled stressing and incised serifs. These Roman capitals are also called majuscules, as a counterpart to minuscule letters such as Merovingian and Carolingian.

Before the 4th century, square capitals were used to write de luxe copies of the works of authors categorized as "pagan" by Christians, especially those of Virgil; the only three surviving manuscripts using this letter, among them the Vergilius Augusteus, contain works by Virgil. After the 5th century the square capitals fell out of use, except as a display lettering for titles and chapter headings in conjunction with various script hands for body text: for example, uncials.

Monotype's Felix Titling (1934) is based on a 1463 alphabet of Feliciano based on Roman inscriptions.

The inscriptional capitals on the Arch of Titus, c. 81 AD, are an example of inscriptional lettering which would have been infilled with bronze. Note the holes for the "tangs" of the cast bronze letters.

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Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Latin book hand exhibit presented by the University of Michigan Papyrus Collection
  2. ^ Latin cursive presented by the University of Michigan Papyrus Collection