HANDWRITING is, of course, the immediate forerunner of printing, and some knowledge of its history is essential to any sound understanding of typography. Not all history is interesting; luckily for the purpose of this summary we may pass over the centuries which intervene between the emergence of the uncial and half-uncial hands from the original capitals as found in fine roman inscriptions, and the development of that kind of handwriting which more nearly resembles the types in which these lines are set.
Our account begins with the period 780-800. Towards the end of the eighth century Charlemagne determined upon a revision of the books used in the services of the churches in his dominions. In this work he was assisted by an Anglo- Saxon, Alcuin of York. The great scholar and churchman had left England on a mission to Rome to receive the archiepiscopal pallium (a vestment conferred by the pope upon metropolitans without which they could not function) on behalf of Eanbald, Archbishop-elect of York. While on this journey, Alcuin met Charlemagne (at Parma in 781) and was invited to reside at the Emperor's court as soon as he had returned to England and concluded his business. Alcuin departed from England to become the central figure of a band of scholars under imperial patronage who studied to revive education and learning. He was chosen by Charlemagne to