The spoken Latin names of letters have been given in an answer to another question. I want to know how the letters were referred to in writing. What are the written Latin names of the Latin alphabet's letters? Alpha is the written name of the first Greek letter. Aleph is the written name of the first Hebrew. How did the Romans refer in writing to each alphabetic character?
A quick first point: I believe the premise of this question is mistaken: there is not some monumental divide between how a letter is written and how it is spoken. As noted:
- In Hebrew, the first letter is written "אָלֶף" and spoken "aleph."
- In Greek, the first letter is written "άλφα" and spoken "alpha."
If we have already established, in the cited question, that the first letter of the Latin alphabet is pronounced as simply "a", it seems unreasonable to suppose another way of writing it.
This makes me say that the letters were written exactly as in English: alone without any additional letters.
Since the OP seemed to indicate that a classical source with three or more letters will do to illustrate this...I adduce Quintilian, who writes at the beginning of the Silver Age:
nam k quidem in nullis verbis utendum puto, nisi quae significant, etiam ut sola ponatur. hoc eo non omisi, quod quidam eam, quotiens a sequatur, necessariam credunt, cum sit c littera, quae ad omnes vocales vim suam perferat. (Quint. Inst. 1 7.10)
an rursus aliae redundent, praeter notam aspirationis, (quae si necessaria est, etiam contrariam sibi poscit) ut K, quae et ipsa quorundam nominum nota est, et Q, cuius similis effectu specieque, nisi quod paulum a nostris obliquatur, Coppa apud Graecos nunc tantum in numero manet, et nostrarum ultima, qua tam carere potuimus quam ψ non quaerimus? (Quint. Inst. 1 4.9)
I find this last quote especially pertinent because he directly opposes the single "Q" with the ("full") Greek spelling "Coppa."
Here is the alphabet: Á, Bē, Cē, Dē, É, Ef, Gē, Hā, I, Kā, El, Em, En, O, Pē, Qū, Er, Es, Tē, Ú, Ix, I Graeca, Zēta
There were no lower case letters at first, and K, Y and Z used only for writing words of Greek origin. The letters J, U and W were added to the alphabet at a later stage to write languages other than Latin. J is a variant of I, U is a variant of V, and W was introduced as a 'double-v' to make a distinction between the sounds we know as 'v' and 'w' which was unnecessary in Latin.