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Looking through the fantastically-titled Libro di M. Giovambattista Palatino cittadino romano : nelqual s'insegna à scriuer ogni sorte lettera, antica & moderna, di qualun que natione, con le sue regole, & misure, & essempi : et con vn breve et vtil discorso de le cifre by Palatino, I notice that double-page G (PDF-page 100) contains a spread of the Latin Alphabet ("ALPHABETVM LATINORVM"). There is something decidedly odd about the letter choice however — note that the bottom line contains two almost-identical "Y" forms.

Double-page G, showing the Latin alphabet on the left and the Greek alphabet on the right.  The Latin alphabet has the letters: A B C D E F G H I K L M N O P Q R S T V X Y Y Z.  The second "Y" resembles a greek upsilon.

Is there a historical reason for this? Were the letters pronounced differently?


Similarly, double-page Eiiii (PDF-page 75) of the same book contains a double-page spread of the Roman letters ("LETTERE ROMANE"). This also shows the two different forms of letter "Y".

Double-page Eiiii, showing the Roman alphabet: A B C D E F G H I K L M N O P Q R S T V X Y Y Z.  The second "Y" resembles a greek upsilon.

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2 Answers 2

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I think that the two forms of the letter Y given on that page are purely aesthetic variations of the same character. It also makes the letter array a neat 6 × 4 array, like the Greek one on the other page of the specimen book. Palatino was a typographer, after all.

However, for a short time in antiquity, there were two different forms of the Y, the Y as we know it and a "short Y" Ⱶ introduced be emperor Claudius and not continued after his reign, see Examples of the use of Claudian letters (Ⅎ, Ↄ, Ⱶ)

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    Doubling a letter just to fill the array? Imho surely there were other ways or types for this...
    – Helen
    Apr 13, 2017 at 15:00
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    (E.g. the Greek table on the opposite page has one letter less on the last row but looks neat.)
    – Helen
    Apr 13, 2017 at 15:06
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    @Helen and on p. 72 a second "R" is used to fill the page beautifully. Apr 13, 2017 at 15:13
  • And some other tables have some more random repeated letters, it looks like. Hm...
    – Helen
    Apr 14, 2017 at 5:08
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I think jknappen is right: that extra Y isn't anything but a fancy Y. A few pages back (86/87), only one Y is mentioned.

There were two forms of the the Y in Greek, though. In fact, there were several. It's unfortunate that Lilian Jeffery's Local Scripts of Archaic Greece doesn't return a preview, but you can see a succinct chart under Cook's Greek Inscriptions.

Epichoric Alphabet Scripts

It wasn't until rather late that in its history that the Greek alphabet was standardized.

The variation in Y meant that the Romans borrowed the letter as V and then later reborrowed the letter, to represent the Greek vowel rather than their native one, as Y.

Not that this answers your specific query, but I mention it in case you stumble upon additional variations in the future.

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