I came across an abbreviation in a text that I'd like to typeset as diplomatically as possible, but I've come across an abbreviation for gens that I'm not entirely sure how it's being abbreviated (regrettably, the quality of the scan isn't very good either). The incunable was published in Spain in the late 15th century and is a biblical commentary.

I've checked in Cappelli's dictionary of abbreviations, but there isn't an G + superscript letter or G + symbol that means gens. Here's the letter in context (and a transcription)

Excerpt of incunable ſuſpitio: qꝛ in egypto fuerũt ſemꝑ maximi malefici ⁊ incãta-
toꝛes ⁊ in oĩ arte peſſimꝫ eruditi: poſſet [?] ꝺici ꝺe xp̃o ꝙ ibi ꝺi
diciſſet artẽ magicã. Et oẽ genꝰ maleficij ꝑ qd̃ faceret miracu-

It doesn't like an n (for which I naively would anyways expect ), but I feel like it could just as easily be an e or an s over it, that is, or gᷤ. What could it be? It's used frequently in the text, but the abbreviation mark, be it letter or diacritic, seems to be unique to this word.

  • More info about the text?
    – Alex B.
    Apr 13, 2018 at 1:40
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    'igitur' because it is frequent, it is second word in the clause, it is close enough to the superscript 'i' which is found earlier, and the important thing is that it should be distinguishable from g with 'o' superscript for 'ergo'.
    – Hugh
    Apr 13, 2018 at 2:19
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    "in Egypt there were always etcetera; ; therefore it could conceivably be said that it was there that he learnt the magic art. Et omne genus m..."
    – Hugh
    Apr 13, 2018 at 2:35
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    @Hugh Could you post that as an answer so I can accept? (I'll adjust the title for future searchers). I'll admit my Latin isn't the greatest — I'm tracking most of this book from a contemporaneous periphrastic translation, and in that version it was "the Jewish people could say" so seeing a g I assumed it was gens. Sure enough, though, Capelli has g’, gͥ, gᷣ, and g+curlybar for igitur). Apr 13, 2018 at 2:55
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    Out of curiosity--what is your reason for transcribing in this manner?
    – brianpck
    Apr 13, 2018 at 12:50

3 Answers 3


As mentioned in a comment, Cappelli 1.54 lists several possibilities.

I disagree, however, that this is "gͥ" (g with an i superscript). To my eye, it looks much more like a g with an o superscript, which comes out to ergo. An "o" does a much better job explaining the "e" shape (at least in the provided scan) than an "i."

Note that there is at least one error with the "literal" transcription you provided: at the end of pessima, the last letter is an a, not a "3-sign."

A more standard transliteration of the whole passage:

suspicio, quia in Aegypto fuerunt semper maximi malefici et incanta-
tores et in omni arte pessima eruditi: posset ergo dici de Christo quod ibi di-
dicisset artem magicam. Et omne genus maleficii per quod faceret miracu-


Here are examples from an earlier, insular, manuscript (Oxford CCC 122) which led me to think that this siglum is not gens, but igitur.
Perge igitur ad from an Insular manuscript:
'Perge igitur ad' from Ale Evang.
Videamus igitur quomodo... (fr Alea Evang.)
enter image description here
In the following line there are three superscripts. The 'o' changes 'seventy-two' to 'seventy-second;' 'u' superscript t, is simply ut; and the tilde over the p is an fairly unusual abbreviation for 'prae' in 'praediximus.'
enter image description here

In this manuscript ergo siglum has a clear 'o' superscript in place of 'i.'
Cum ergo natus esset IHS (from Mt2:1)
Cum ergo natus esset

There are three reasons for thinking your siglum stood for igitur.
.1.frequent occurence.
.2.occuring second word in the clause.
.3.finally, the excerpt, after describing the number of magicians in Egypt, continues: "...it might be possible for it to be stated concerning Christ that in that place he was instructed in magic arts." The argument suggested 'so,' 'hence,' 'therefore.'
.4. the marks are more easily explained as a chunky 'i' with displaced dot cut on the printer's steel punch, than as a faulty 'o'.

Here either Ergo or Igitur would be suitable; my manuscript consistently preferred igitur; Duns Scotus, for example, prefers ergo. You could hedge your bets and state that it is unclear. The problem could be solved by searching for a passage where your source quotes ergo or igitur in the Gospel which he is commenting on. The final Chapter of Matthew would settle it.

  • I am confused by this answer. All three of your final reasons apply equally well to "ergo," so the entire argument hinges on whether the OP text has an I or an o. I think it is clearly not the former, but you don't seem to address that point (though the comparison texts are helpful).
    – brianpck
    Apr 14, 2018 at 3:13
  • Just to be clear--you think it is either ergo or igitur? I suppose I was taking that issue as settled and arguing for the former option. I tend to think igitur is indefensible, unless you've come across an "ir" superscript like you mention. Even then, "o" definitely seems like the more parsimonious option.
    – brianpck
    Apr 14, 2018 at 21:05
  • No, personally I think it is an 'i' superscript which has found a problem in this chunky font with the dot above the 'i;' the solution they chose was to displace the dot to the right and slant it. That solution may have been found in the MS, or spontaneously by the engraver cutting punches for the font.
    – Hugh
    Apr 15, 2018 at 2:09
  • @brianpck Parsimonious in what sense? sterner application of Ockham's razor?
    – Hugh
    Apr 15, 2018 at 2:09

I felt like image-editing tonight and I put together some abbreviations from pages 147 and 148 of Cappelli (1973, anastatic reprint of the 1929 edition), to compare them with the siglum in question.

These are all the relevant sigla listed there. Note the last one for igitur: it’s gr, not gi, it comes from 15th-Century Rome, and I find it particularly convincing.

However, this is not enough for me to cast my vote for igitur with 100% certainty. In this case, igitur and ergo are almost synonyms, so you have really no problem to understand what is being said, and my advice is to go on to find further examples of either igitur or ergo, which might be clearer and would be helpful to settle the question.

OTOH, I agree with Brianpck’s other observation, that we have omni arte pessima here, and not peſſimꝫ = pessimorum.

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