Medieval Writing
Paleography Exercises
Exultet Roll, late 11th century Italian (British Library add ms 30337). All images by permission of the British Library. These images are made available under a Creative Commons licence.
This is just a small section of an exultet roll, which was until the late 19th century in the abbey of Montecassino. The roll is 22 feet long (c.7 meters), and is made up of 12 parchment membranes joined together. The illustration in this section shows Eve tempting Adam with the fruit, while the serpent wraps itself around her legs. The Latin text, which includes musical notation, is upside down with respect to the picture, as it was read and sung by the deacon on one side of the lectern while the pictures were viewed by the congregation on the other side during the Easter services. The text is an Easter hymn acclaiming the resurrection of Christ and was sung at the consecration of the Paschal candle. Particularly charming is the scene further down the roll with a scene of beekeeping, as the bees are commended for their contribution of the beeswax for the candles. The script of the text is Beneventan in the style typical of Montecassino.
A complete set of images of this roll, along with 31 others, with descriptive notes and a generic text, is to be found in Cavallo, G. (ed) 1994 Exultet:rotoli liturgici del medioevo meridionale Rome. If you don't read Italian, you can still have a leisurely comparative examination of this unique group of manuscripts. The roll has been digitised in its entirely by the British Library and can be seen here.

overview | illustration | text | alphabet | abbreviations | ligatures | exercises | transcript | translation

Click on each of the above to walk your way through a segment of the text. The transcript will appear in a separate window so that you can use it for reference at any time. These exercises are designed to guide you through the text, not test you, so you can cheat as much as you like.
Script sample for this example
Index of Exercises
Index of Scripts

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This site is created and maintained by Dr Dianne Tillotson, freelance researcher and compulsive multimedia and web author. Comments are welcome Material on this web site is copyright, but some parts more so than others. Please check here for copyright status and usage before you start making free with it. This page last modified 6/4/2014.