It's conceivable that the numeral Ɔ and letters it combines with are a mediaeval conceit rather than truly Roman — hopefully this is still on topic. I'm trying to decipher the publication date of a book published in Antwerp which is written as


The last part is fairly obviously 17, and as it's a printed book it could even be 1517, since etching and moveable type had been invented. The peculiar character combinations bear a superficial similarity to M and D: is that what they represent?

Image of book title page

The book is riddled with misprints, which would also point to a fairly early date for moveable type. If IƆ is supposed to be D, it would be reasonable for ICƆ to be a misprint, but the presence of C in that group is another point of confusion.

There is a related question, but that doesn't really explain CIƆ and certainly not ICƆ.


The most likely reading (which seems consistent with the look of the piece of the book shown and the dates found for other books published by Caspar Beller by a quick Google search) is that the C is misplaced into the "ICƆ" group, i.e. the corrected reading would be CIƆ IƆ C XVII, i.e. MDCXVII = 1617.


It reminds me of this statement I read on wikipedia once.

The early Roman numerals for 1, 10, and 100 were the Etruscan ones: "I", "X", and "Ж". The symbols for 5 and 50 changed from Ʌ and "𐌣" to V and ↆ at some point. The latter had flattened to ⊥ (an inverted T) by the time of Augustus, and soon afterwards became identified with the graphically similar letter L.[49]

The symbol for 100 was written variously as >I< or ƆIC, was then abbreviated to Ɔ or C, with C (which matched a Latin letter) finally winning out. It may have helped that C is the initial of centum, Latin for "hundred".


That doesn't exactly answer the question, especially since your example is from the 16th century, but maybe this has something to do with it.

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