Developments In the Middle Ages: Carolingian minuscule, illustrations, spectacles, mechanical clocks

Fareeha Arshad

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The medieval period stretched from the collapse of the mighty Roman Empire in the fifth century to the age of discovery in the fifteenth century. Though science and technology were very underdeveloped in this period, some of the most significant findings that have eased our lives were made at this time. Although this period has given us inventions that are ingrained in our daily lives, we often fail to acknowledge the influence of this period. Let’s have a look at some of these innovations.

1. Carolingian minuscule

Also known as Caroline minuscule, this script was developed during the Carolingian Renaissance of the middle ages. Before this, most of the ancient writings consisted of series of block letters that were written continually. With the Carolingian minuscule, written words were transformed into more uniform and readable texts with lower and upper case letters — like the intelligible writing today.

2. Books with illustrations

During the medieval period, people began adding illustrations along with texts to explain the content better. The pictures usually held information that was evident from the text alone. However, with illustrations, readers could now better grasp the working of the author’s inner eye. With the images alone, the books became more inclusive and even spoke to the people who couldn’t read. Over the years, illustrations transformed into printed images like the one we use today.

3. Spectacles

The first spectacles were developed in Italy around the 1280s A.D. The eyewear consisted of a pair of magnifying lenses set on bone, wood, or metal pieces to place on the nose. By the end of the thirteenth century, a Florentine named Salvino D’Armate gave the world its first wearable spectacles. These eyeglasses could have been invented to correct farsightedness and presbyopia. Eye wears for nearsightedness were developed in the fifteenth century.

4. Mechanical clocks

By the fourteenth century, oversized mechanical clocks were being developed in Italy and other European countries. These large clocks used falling weights and oscillations. Though these clocks were used for more than three centuries, they depended on the driving and friction forces — both of which were difficult to maintain. However, the first clocks didn’t have hands or faces and measured canonical hours instead of astronomical hours.

What are some of the other major developments from the middle ages that continue to benefit us even today? Do let us know in the comments section.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I write about current affairs, history, science, and lifestyle.

Texas State
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