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I have usually heard it said that Carolingian script replaced the "crampled and illegible" Merovingian under Charlemagne's reforms. However, the example and the descriptions on this page do not imply any lack of legibility or proper spacing. However, I have seen the examples of the cramped style which the Carolingian was designed to rid the world of: it was the style of the Frankish chanceries from the 7th through the 9th centuries. Is the Merovingian chancery style different from Merovingian script or is it a subset of the latter, like Luxueil and Chelles? Should it receive mention, and a representation? Srnec 02:53, 16 June 2007 (UTC)
The example image currently on the page is pretty legible, for Merovingian. When the script was used for literary works, it wasn't so cramped or illegible, because it was intended for a literate audience. The chancery was not so careful, because materials were expensive, so the less space used, the better; the recipients of documents produced in the chancery already knew the content, so they didn't really have to be able to read it, and in many cases they were probably illiterate anyway. I'm not in front of my books right now, so I will check this again when I get the chance, but I think this also led to another problem: a large number of the surviving Merovingian documents are fake. Adam Bishop 15:16, 16 June 2007 (UTC)
That makes sense. I have heard it said that the unique and florid style of chancery documents may have been a marker of legitimacy moreso than the actual contents and signatures etc. Therefore the illegibility was perhaps partly intentional. As to you last statement, do you mean that large number of documents from the Merovingian period are later forgeries or that a large number of them are not what they claim to be (that is, they are Merovingian, but they are telling lies)? Srnec 19:01, 16 June 2007 (UTC)
I think they are fake in the sense that they were written later and dated to the Merovingian period. Presumably this was because someone was trying to claim some land or some right that would otherwise have been lost after the Carolingians came to power (I think that happened in England too, after the Conquest and the Anarchy). I am looking at "Diplomatique Mediévale" by Olivier Guyotjeannin et al., which says "près de la moitié des actes conservés mis au nom des Mérovingiens sont faux" (and they reference Alfred Gawlik's article "Fälschungen" in Lexikon des Mittelalters for that claim). There is a very long chapter about false documents which enumerates the various kinds of falsification, which I will have to read again to give a better answer. Adam Bishop 16:29, 17 June 2007 (UTC)