|A fourth century Latin codex with Scriptio Continua|
As Ireland was never part of the Roman Empire, Latin was a foreign language to the Irish. Their desire to learn and master Latin was driven by primarily theological and pastoral motives. Latin was the language of the western church, in her liturgy, theology, creeds, and scripture. The public reading of scripture in the early Irish church was an important part of theological training and also for the spiritual life of a monastic community.
According to Frederick G. Kilgour, "For the Irish monk who did not have Latin as a native tongue and was not intimately familiar with its varying forms of declension, conjugation, and inflection, reading an unbroken string of Latin words out loud to others was a formidable task. To facilitate oral reading the Irish scribes used space between words to make them more readily visible. Irish monasteries introduced word separation to continental monasteries, but it was not until the eleventh century that the practice was generally accepted on the continent."
This Irish scribal habit, the use of spaces between words, is probably the most obvious influence of the Irish Scriptoria still in vogue today.
|Detail from an Irish manuscript (Book of Kells) showing word division in the Latin text|
For more see,
Guglielmo Cavallo and Roger Chartier, eds. A History of Reading in the West. UMP, 1999.
Frederick G. Kilgour. The Evolution of the Book. OUP, 1998.
Edward M. Thompson. An Introduction to Greek and Latin Palaeography. OUP, 1912.