Usual Estrangela


A “standard” form of Estrangela that begins to show the variations often characterized as “Serto” script.

Example 1

Jerusalem, SMMJ 180, ff. 54v-55r (7th/8th C.)

The examples highlighted in this lesson come mainly from the 8th-11th centuries. I am calling it “usual” Estrangela because the common type of writing in these examples aligns closely with what people will consider a classic or typical kind of Estrangela, although even here there are also examples of certain shapes more often associated with Serto, and, as usual, in any case, every manuscript shows some peculiarities.

Specific features are indicated below generally only when distinct from those mentioned for DIYR 339 in the lesson on Earliest Estrangela.

Book of Steps

Jerusalem, Saint Mark's Monastery, SMMJ 180, ff. 54v-55r. All rights reserved. Image provided by HMML.

ālapusually relatively short
if the following letter has a leading line it may be attached to the ālap, as in the first word (wp’š) of f. 55r, col. a, line 17
bēthas a relatively narrow top horizontal
dālat / rēšangled, with a thicker top line that is not as long as the vertical line
wāwnot closed, and the vertical line on the right hangs a little below the line
lāmadreaches very high, sometimes crossing the line above
mimnot closed
nunin its final form not attached to the previous letter
is at an angle noticeably more horizontal than when it is attached
semkatnot attached
šinthe shape of a small t

This manuscript is an early copy of the Book of Steps (Liber graduum) and parts of the Asceticon of Abba Isaiah. The original order of folios has been obliterated by misbinding, and thus the present arrangement is wholly confused. As in SMMJ 129, some notes in early Serto complement the Estrangela of the main text.

The script is very straightforward Estrangela, with sharp angles as in the bēt and ṭēt. When there is a little space at line end, the final letter has an extender to reach the edge. Here are some remarks on a few particulars:

Example 2

Jerusalem, SMMJ 1, ff. 47v-48r (8th C.?)

Hexaplaric signs are found throughout. As for word-spacing, n.b. w-meṭṭol-hādē written without spaces in f. 48/p. 73, line 2.

Isaiah (Syro-Hexapla)

Jerusalem, Saint Mark's Monastery, SMMJ 1, ff. 47v-48r (pp. 92-93). All rights reserved. Image provided by HMML.

ālaptop part curves upward, ending with a thicker topmost part
gāmalwhen joined on the right, the right side is not straight (see f. 38r/p. 73, line 10)
dālat / rēšsharp right angle
vertical and horizontal parts about the same size
zayndoes not hang below line
yodfinal form in the shape of a comma
kāptop may be flatter or more curved (examples of both on f. 37v/p. 72, line 16) in final form
descender very thin
mimopen loop
final form has very thin descender
semkatnot attached
left loop notably taller than the right, and of a distinctly different shape
ṣādēdescender very thin
šinbowl shape at top, but relatively wide

Example 3

London, BL Add. 14532, f. 194r (8th C.)

Thick lines of relative uniformity.

Excerpts from the Fathers Against Heresies

© The British Library Board, Add. 14532, f. 194r.

ālapserif on top, as well as on the bottom of the right leg
gāmalvery small dot at the lowest point of the letter
dālat / rēšthe top bar is short, often joined to the vertical by not much of an angle
wāwangled at top right, then round on the left
loop usually open
yodjoined form often rather tall, but not quite as tall as nun
final isolated form is the comma shape
mimloop sometimes open, sometimes closed
semkatnot attached
left loop notably taller than the right, and of a distinctly different shape
ṣādēdescender very thin, esp. in comparison to the uniform thickness elsewhere in the script
šinthick bowl or chalice shape

Example 4

Mardin, CFMM 309, p. 112 (8th/9th C.)

This manuscript, some pages of which are more difficult to read due to faded ink, has its main text in Estrangela, but the scribe himself (it seems) has also made several marginal notes in Serto (longer ones on pp. 313 and 321, for example). Several pages, including this one, also have some Greek names either in the margin or in a separate column.

The abbreviations are marked, as usual, with an overline, in this case with small dots at each end.


© Mardin, Church of the Forty Martyrs, CFMM 309, p. 112. All rights reserved. Image provided by HMML.

ālapvery wide, with a large dot or serif at the top the left leg sometimes hangs especially low
dālat and rēšof a very compact, slightly rounded Serto type, hanging below the line only barely, if at all
of the Serto type, with a closed loop
wāwcompletely round, as in Serto
nunin isolated form merely a thick dot with a very thin angled descender
semkatof the left-leaning θ shape
šinvery squat and thick, with no separate top part
tāwhas a loop so tightly closed that it is nonexistent

Example 5 - Three 8th/9th century manuscripts

Milan, Cod. Ambr. A (C313 Inf.; 8th/9th C.), f. 126ra


A legible facsimile of Cod. Ambr. A is available here. This manuscript has overall a sharper, more angular ductus than the fifth century manuscripts, and with a shorter line height.

Codex Syro-hexaplaris Ambrosianus, f. 126r, with Jer 25:9-10 (static non-zoomable image)

Cod. Ambr. A, f. 126ra Milan, Cod. Ambr. A, f. 126ra, ll. 24-33.

Note the hexaplaric signs inherited from Origen (and in turn, from Alexandrian Homeric scholarship) to indicate pluses, minuses and other textual relationships between the Hebrew text and the translated, and thus here the Syriac text based on the Greek (see further B.M. Metzger, Manuscripts of the Greek Bible, § 22).

ālapwhen connected and not, there is a serif on the right leg
left leg sits a little below the line
top part may have upward turn
height of top part varies
gāmalends well below line, but without the thick dot of some later examples
dālat / rēšangled, more usual Estrangela form
center post relatively straight, not angling to the left much
wāwmore sharp than round on right side unclosed loop
ḥētoften about the same height as yod, but sometimes higher
yodfinal, unconnected form with left extender (esp. at line end), or of the angled type final, connected form of the angled type
kāpsomewhat round on top, but without a high point: i.e. relatively straight on top final form with relatively short tail
lāmadnotably thicker at the top
mimloop open more sharp than round on the right
semkatsomewhat pointed loops (esp. left), left one taller does not join following letter
ʿēmay have relatively narrow angle between top and lower part
qoprelatively angular on all sides final form with small tail on left
šinvery thick horizontal base round bowl shape on top
tāwloop open

Jerusalem, SMMJ 129, pp. 120-121 (dated 806)

Quriaqos of Tagrit

The bulk of the manuscript is devoted to theological treatises of Quriaqos of Tagrit, in whose lifetime this manuscript was copied. The main text is in Estrangela, while the colophon is in Serto.

Part of the Serto colophon (dated Oct. 3, 806) -- static non-zoomable image

Part of the Serto colophon Column from Jerusalem, Saint Mark's Monastery, SMMJ 129, p. 189. All rights reserved. Image provided by HMML.

Jerusalem, Saint Mark's Monastery, SMMJ 129, pp. 120-121. All rights reserved. Image provided by HMML.

ālaphas a conspicuous curve upward at the top, but usually with not much of a dot or serif at the end
bēthas a notable short top line
gāmalends in a dot
dālat / rēšangled, with a thicker top line that is not as long as the vertical line
wāwsharp on the right and has an open loop
mimsharp on the right, with an open loop, and the top part curving upward on the left
semkathas a much higher and separately formed left loop
ʿēhas a dot on the far right

The Estrangela script here is rather angular and makes a careful, stately impression.

Vatican City, Vat. Sir. 161, f. 113v (9th C.)

Acts of the Persian Martyrs

© Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana, Sir. 161, f. 113v.

dālat / rēšSerto shape
Serto shape, with closed loop on the left
wāwmay have an angle on the top right or be curved
loop generally open, but may be closed
zayndoes not hang below lines
thicker at the top
yodjoined form often rather tall, but not quite as tall as nun
final isolated form is the comma shape
kāpfinal form more jagged than curved
mimloop closed
top part curves upward
semkatjoins with following letter
both loops about the same size
tāweither with very tight loop, essentially closed, or the more common Estrangela type

Example 6

Vatican City, Vat. Sir. 118, f. 40v (pre-12th C.)

Jacob of Serugh, Memre

© Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana, Sir. 118, f. 40v.

ālaptop part, ending in a dot, much thinner than the bottom part
gāmalvery thick dot at the bottom
the top arm has a narrowed middle
dālat / rēšSerto shape, with a very thick dot as the topmost part
Serto shape, with closed loop on left
wāwa perfect o shape
zayndoes not hang below line
ṭētthe top and bottom parts are each the same height
yodvery short
mimtop line angles upward
closed loop
semkatleft loop only very slightly taller than the right
neither loop pointed
ʿēthe top arm has a narrowed middle
rather tall
ṣādēthin descender
šintop part essentially a flat line
tāwclosed loop

The script here has a very thick, sharp character.

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