Monday, 10 December 2012

History Nerd Facts: Times New Roman or Why the Humanists were Idiots

This is Times New Roman.

It is one of the most used types in the modern time and it has its origins in the Carolingian minuscule which was introduced at the time of Karl the Great (king/emperor of the Holy Roman Empire 768-814 AD). Before Karl the Great there was a big variation of types, some of them looking very very different from each other. Today they are incredibly hard to read for untrained eyes as you can see below but even back in Karl's days having many different types wasn't exactly handy. Karl the Great introduced a unified education and writing system to the Holy Roman Empire, the most important one for us today is probably the unified type, the Carolingian minuscule.

If you look at the pictures below and compare them to another you will notice that the Carolingian miuscule is much easier to read for us. 
That has a reason: 
The humanists were idiots.

Back in the time of Humanism the people wanted to bring back the type of the Roman Empire because everything from the ancient times was seen as pure and good, in contrast to everything that came from the so called "dark ages" aka the Middle Ages. (see Stuff that didn't happen in the Middle Ages.)
So the humanists looked at old ancient texts, copied the type, spread it and probably felt very good about themselves. Well...
They DID look at texts that were written in the ancient times... Not on the originals though. What they thought to be originals were really manuscripts from ancient texts that were written in the time of Karl the Great. So what they introduced as the pure type of the ancient times was really the Carolingian minuscule.

Luxeuil type, one of the types that died out when the Carolingian minuscule was introduced. Source

Carolingian minuscule. Source

Do you enjoy this little series of mine?

Would you like to read something about a certain topic?

Have a great day,
The Countess


  1. Haha, and the answer is enjoying. History is forever fascinating, and I like your writing style.

    1. Thanks, I was hoping I could spice it up a bit with some humour because every time I hear that story I cannot help but laugh