As noted in the Estrangela lessons, for some letters there is little or no distinction between Estrangela and Serto, even in early Estrangela manuscripts. Some of the early Serto manuscripts here exhibit some mixtures of Estrangela and Serto forms. By the thirteenth century, however, we reach a relatively stable ensemble of standard Serto shapes.

Basic Characteristics


The letters bēt, gāmal, ṭēt (rounded at the bottom, but still angled at the top), mim, and qop are round in typical Serto, where their Estrangela (and, except for mim, East Syriac) counterparts are angular.


In addition, the following typical Serto letterforms may be singled out:

Example 1 - 8th through 10th-century manuscripts

Mardin, CFMM 310, p. 62 (8th C.)


Mardin, CFMM 356, pp. 166-167 (9th/10th C.)

John of Dara

Example 2 - 12th/13th-century manuscripts

Mardin, CFMM 130, p. 3 (12th/13th C.)

Jacob of Serugh, Memre


This manuscript shows what might be considered a classic Serto hand. There are none of the sharper curves akin to Estrangela that may appear in earlier Serto manuscripts, and the characteristic roundness of bēt, gāmal (hanging very low), ṭēt, mim, and qop make this an exemplary Serto manuscript.

N.b. that in the combination ālap-lāmad, the ālap is not separate from the lāmad at the bottom.

Jerusalem, SMMJ 60, ff. 6v-7r (dated 1209/10)

Severus of Antioch, Hymns

Diyarbakir, DIYR 341, ff. 4v-5r (dated 1214)


Diyarbakir, DIYR 343, ff. 3v-4r (dated 1226/27)



Sometimes when ālap is found at the end of a word, it is leaning backward to the right.

Example 3 - 15th-century manuscripts

Jerusalem, SMMJ 11, ff. 4v-5r (dated 1402/03)

Psalms (selections)


This script shows conspicuously thick lines. There are no deviations from typical Serto.

Jerusalem, SMMJ 38, ff. 5v-6r (dated 1477)

Pauline Epistles


In contrast to the previous manuscript, the lines here are thinner. Again the script here is typical Serto, including a long gāmal.

Mardin, CFMM 420, p. 6 (dated 1474)

Monastic Anthology


This manuscript contains an elegant Serto script with decorations extending into the margins. Note the lāmad-ṭēt ligature across a word boundary in line 5.

Diyarbakir, DIYR 2, f. 64r (dated 1496)

Book of Judges


This manuscript is especially notable for its large size (sixty-nine lines per page) and use of four columns, a rare mise en page for Syriac manuscripts.

Mardin, CFMM 366, p. 152 (dated 1473)

Cause of All Causes


Note following features:

  • the semkat-ṭēt ligature in col. a, line 4, and the similar mim-ṭēt ligature in the last line of that column

  • the abbreviated part of the word written in the margin in col. b, line 5 (but not in the previous line)

  • final lāmad-ālap ligature, across a word boundary, in col. b, line 16

  • a word correction in col. b, line 17

Example 4 - 16th-century manuscripts

Jerusalem, SMMJ 62, ff. 4v-5r (1569)

Beth Gazzo


Like SMMJ 11, this script is made of thick, clear lines. As far as the letter-shapes go, there is nothing out of the ordinary for Serto here.

Jerusalem, SMMJ 219, ff. 91v-92r (dated 1788/89)

Eudochos, Lexicon


This later manuscript, complete with several marginal notes, is similar in appearance to later, even modern manuscripts . This is due to the kind of ink used, less rich than that found in earlier times, and the kind of paper. The scribe has included very many (West Syriac) vowels.

Tall letters that have a single vertical line (ālap, unattached ṭēt, lāmad, unattached tāw) are often hooked at the top. In addition, note the following: