Example 1 - 12th/13th-century manuscripts

Jerusalem, SMMJ 55, f. 56r (dated 1170)


Here are examples of manuscripts mainly from the 12th century and later. While Estrangela has the reputation for being the early Syriac script-type par excellence, it continued to be used well past the 15th century, not only in titles or rubrics, but for complete texts. In general, the lines of later Estrangela manuscripts are thicker, with less distinction between thin and thick lines in these copies. As in earlier periods, some letter-shapes similar to or identical with Serto (or East Syriac) may be found. In a previous lesson we saw an Estrangela manuscript with a Serto colophon, and here we will see Estrangela manuscripts with colophons in East Syriac.

Diyarbakir, DIYR 340, ff. 30v-31r (11th/12th C.)

Gospels (Harklean)

Jerusalem, SMMJ 32, ff. 91v-92r (12th C.?)

Gospel Lectionary


None of the Serto features that characterize some other Estrangela manuscripts, both earlier and later. Abbreviations, seldom used, are marked not with a simple overline, but a dotted overline.

Mardin, CCM 29, f. 27r (12th/13th C.)

Gospel Lectionary


The letter-lines in this manuscript vary little in thickness.

Mosul, ASOM 1, f. 17v (dated 1279)

Gospel Lectionary - dated April 20, 1279


No Serto features.

Mardin, CFMM 41, p. 94/ f. 56v (13th C.?)

Gospel Lectionary


No Serto features.

Diyarbakir, DIYR 338, f. 24v (11th/12th C.)


Example 2 - 15th/16th-century manuscripts

Mardin, CCM 72, f. 35v (dated 1488)

Gospel Lectionary


This manuscript shows some variation in the thickness of letter-lines, and with an overall more flowing feel than some later Estrangela manuscripts. There are no Serto-like features here, and the letters-shapes are a simple, straightforward Estrangela. Note the very small size of the (East Syriac) vocalic dots.

Mardin, CCM 62, f. 22v (dated 1543)

Gospel Lectionary


Again, there are no Serto-like features here, and the letters-shapes are a simple, straightforward Estrangela, as in CCM 72, but the scribe of this manuscript, whether from care or expertise, has produced a more imposing text thanks to wider word-spacing and more consistent letter-forms. Note the very small size of the (East Syriac) vocalic dots, again as in CCM 72.

Tell Kaif, QACCT 11, f. 26v (dated 1587)

Gospel Lectionary


Again, there are no Serto shapes, and these are all common Estrangela forms. The colophon is in East Syriac, in contrast to the main text's Estrangela. The taller letters (ṭēt, lāmad, tāw) are especially tall. Mim and nun, in final forms, have very thin descenders. Only a few other features call for comment:

Example 3 - 17th-century manuscripts

Dohuk, DCD 2, f. 44r (dated 1680)

Gospel Lectionary: 1992 AG = 1680 CE, Dec 11


A careful, almost decorative hand, and very thick, with only a few very thin lines for contrast. Again we have a colophon in East Syriac.

Tell Kaif, QACCT 12, f. 41r (dated 1676)

Gospel Lectionary


This hand is very similar to that of QACCT 11, from about a century earlier. There are no Serto-like features, and the letter-forms here are common formal or decorative Estrangela types. Descenders (or parts of them), as in sādē, final kāp, mim, and nun, are narrow. The ālap has a very thin leg on the right with a dot on the bottom.

Alqosh, DCA 5, f. 15v (dated 1679)

Gospel Lectionary: 1990 AG = 1679 CE, Oct. 12


This manuscript shows writing very similar to the last few examples. Again we have a thick, stately hand with only a few very thin lines for contrast and no Serto-like features. The thin lines are in the right leg of the ālap (with a dot on the bottom), the center line of the hē, and in the descenders (or parts of them) of ṣādē and final kāp, mim, and nun. The spacing of the words is sometimes cramped.