11 beautiful alphabets from ancient and medieval times
Go way beyond Helvetica

From simple to ornate, from angular to curvy, from lines to ribbons and animal heads, go way beyond Helvetica with these 11 samples from The Book of Ornamental Alphabets.

1. Eighth and ninth centuries. Anglo-Saxon.

2. 10th century. British Museum.

3. 11th century, and numerals.

4. 13th century, from Latin MS.

5. 14th century. Date about 1340.

6. 15th and 16th centuries. Ornamental Riband.

7. 16th century. Henry the Eighth. MS.

8. 16th century. Gothic. MS.

9. 16th century. Gothic. MS.

10. 17th century. MS.

11. 16th century.

Arika Okrent is editor-at-large at and a frequent contributor to Mental Floss. She is the author of In the Land of Invented Languages, a history of the attempt to build a better language. She holds a doctorate in linguistics and a first-level certification in Klingon.


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