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I'm trying to understand a paragraph from the 1806 transcription of latin legal texts from 1331, while being proficient at neither law nor latin. An example: abbreviated latin text which is from page 78 of Placita de quo Warranto.

I'll come back and ask for more help when I've wrestled a bit more, but first I'm curious as to how to represent this text on the screen.

I saw the question Do different truncation signs have different connotations? and that led me to the Cappelli's magisterial The elements of abbreviation in medieval Latin paleography which has helped greatly. I also note the Medieval Unicode Font Initiative which seems to be making very slow progress. And Wikipedia's Scribal Abbreviation, which gives some examples of unicode representation of common latin abbreviations. Unfortunately, some of the representations there such as p̱ or d̵ don't look much like the 1806 versions.

The 1806 transcribers and typesetters have done an impressive job of representing the scribal abbreviation symbols in print. Can we do as well nowadays? If I try to type the text from the image above, complete with its abbreviation symbols, in a unicode document, is there a standard way of picking symbols and combining diacriticals to make sense? I can pick some symbols that more-or-less look like the ones from the text (like ħ or ƚ) but others (like the p with a line through the down-stroke) defeat me.

Update: I'd like a generic unicode solution that works with any conventional text processor or displays neatly and consistently in any browser equipped with adequately complete Unicode fonts. I'm actually imagining a way of representing the abbreviated text so that it would be useful as input to a machine translation program, even if no such program yet exists.

Is there a well-defined solution to this? Or haven't we got there yet?

Thanks!

Another Update: Following Draconis's suggestions, I have produced this version of the above text:

Joħes ꝑſona eccƚie de Eversholt dat đno Regi dimidiam marcam ꝑ licencia ħenda clamandi ꝑ billam has liƀtates ſubſcriptas pⁱmo die itin...is hic nō clamat᷒

That uses

  • ꝑ U+A751 LATIN SMALL LETTER P WITH STROKE THROUGH DESCENDER
  • ħ U+0127 LATIN SMALL LETTER H WITH STROKE
  • ſ U+017F LATIN SMALL LETTER LONG S
  • ƚ U+019A LATIN SMALL LETTER L WITH BAR
  • ƀ U+0180 LATIN SMALL LETTER B WITH STROKE
  • ⁱ U+2071 SUPERSCRIPT LATIN SMALL LETTER I
  • ō U+014D LATIN SMALL LETTER O WITH MACRON
  • ᷒ U+1DD2 COMBINING US ABOVE

Have I made appropriate choices here? In particular, nō clamat᷒? I am guessing that (following Capelli section 4.33 and 3.3) this stands for nota clamatus. Is the combining us above character appropriate? It doesn't look much like the 1806 print.

And! How do I represent the mark in itin...is? Let alone, where do I find it in Capelli! itin...is

  • Welcome to the site! Can you say something about what software you would like to use? The answers are going to be different for HTML, LaTeX and Word, for example. Or do you just want an overall Unicode solution? – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 16 '16 at 13:21
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    I'm specifically interested in a generic Unicode solution. This is just a side-project on the way to actually understanding the text and the challenge tickled my fancy! I edited the question to make that clear. Thanks! – emrys57 Oct 16 '16 at 13:26
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    It might require a specialized font, rather than a different type of encoding. Unicode doesn't provide the tools to specify that everything looks right in any general Unicode-compliant font. – Asteroides Oct 16 '16 at 15:41
  • A good synthesis on the subject is given here: menestrel.fr/spip.php?rubrique738 (in French). – Luc Oct 26 '16 at 11:48
  • Thanks! I installed Junicode, Kelvinch, Andika and Charis SIL fonts (I can't remember what problems each fixed) and removed Code2003 font, which seems to have some confusing bugs. – emrys57 Oct 27 '16 at 12:02
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There are two Unicode blocks in particular filled with mediaeval abbreviations, if you (and your readers!) have the appropriate fonts.

The Combining Diacritical Marks Supplement (chart) provides combining characters, which can be inserted after a letter to add a mark above or below. These are the most versatile, but don't always look good if the font designer didn't prepare for them.

The Latin Extended-D block (chart), on the other hand, provides "precomposed" versions of the most common combinations. Your p-with-stroke, for example, is encoded as U+A751 "ꝑ". These will usually look better than the combining marks, but are even less likely to be supported in fonts.

Hopefully these fit your purpose. I linked the Wikipedia pages as a good way to test your system, since they will attempt to display all the characters using your existing fonts. The official PDF charts on the other hand demonstrate what the characters should look like, once you find fonts to support them.

  • Thank you very much! I had to add and remove a variety of fonts on my mac before all those characters worked properly, but it is becoming clearer. I added a putative transcription to the question. Am I on the right lines, do you think? – emrys57 Oct 17 '16 at 10:15
  • I think so. Unfortunately I'm as lost as you are on that one character; I don't recall seeing it before. – Draconis Oct 18 '16 at 22:35

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