RE: Looking for 5 old Spanish letters.

Date: Fri Dec 17 1999 - 07:18:40 EST

K. Whistler & others have already answered all your questions.

I just want to add that the tilde on a letter (questions 3 to 5) was
normally just an abbreviation for a following "n" or "m" (apart some special
cases like "q~"). It was used in manuscripts for all European languages.

The first age of printed books retained this abbreviation for "compatibility
with existing legacy standards", as we would say today. They were dropped
later on in favor of normal "m"s and "n"s; this was probably due by a
decrease in the price of paper, because it happened in the same age when the
white margins of books started becoming wider. It was also due to the fact
that these abbreviations were designed to ease manual writing; in lead
typography they were just a nuisance (extra pre-composed glyphs to be
produced and used...).

The tilde has remained only in Spanish and Portuguese in few crystallized
ligatures: "" (originally an abbreviation for "nn") and on Portuguese
vowels (where it represents a following "m"). In Portuguese, the tilde has
been later re-interpreted as a diacritic sign showing nasalization and, with
this meaning, the sign is used in modern phonetic transcriptions.

A similar history occurred to the "long s" (question 1). This was an
alternative shape for lowercase "s" used when the letter was not at the end
of a word and, specially, when it preceded another consonant letter.

The first fonts for printed books had this alternative glyph, but later the
short "s" was extended to all positions. Today, the long "s" only remains in
German "" (called "Es-Zed" or "scharfes Es"). This is a crystallized
ligature "sz": the "s" in the long form and the "z" in the descender form
(looking like a "3") that is typical of the Fraktur style. The "sz" spelling
was later changed to "ss", and this is why "" is now considered an
equivalent of a double "s".

If you are transcribing old manuscripts or incunabula for publication, I
think that the normal practice is to modernize these old spellings to their
modern equivalent: all long "s"s become short "s"s, all "~"s become "m"s or
"n"s, and so on. This practice throws away part of the charm of old
documents, but makes them much easier to read for modern readers.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Kenneth Whistler []
> Sent: 1999 December 17, Friday 01.57
> To: Unicode List
> Cc:;
> Subject: Re: Looking for 5 old Spanish letters.
> Carlos Levoyer asked:
> >
> > 1. One that looks very much like our actual "f", but
> > it doesn't have the right part of the little
> > horizontal bar that crosses it. Although it does not
> > have that part it does have the left part.
> This is the long-s. For most purposes, it is just a glyph
> variant of the regular s, but in instances where it needs
> to be separately represented in text, the Unicode value is:
> >
> > 2. One that binds our actual "c" and "t". It
> > "connects" the upper end of the "c" with the upper end
> > of the "t" through a quarter of a circle been its
> > center point (if drawn by a compass) at the left
> > extreme point of the horizontal bar that crosses
> > the"t".
> This is simply a ligation of c and t. It should not be
> encoded as a separate letter. Certain old style fonts
> will, however, have the glyph for this ligature available
> for display.
> Note also the long-s/t ligatures in the same lemma for
> Doctor in this dictionary.
> >
> > 3. One that combines two parts of different letters:
> > our actual "u" with the Spanish serpent-like line
> > (tilde) over the "", (the latter does not exist in
> > English;ASCII code: 164).
> >
> > 4. One that combines two parts of different letters:
> > our actual "q" with the Spanish serpent-like line over
> > the "" (ASCII code: 164).
> Represented by the following sequence:
> Presumably this is a manuscript abbreviation for something
> like "quando" or whatever. There are many such abbreviations
> derived from the Latin manuscript traditions.
> >
> > 5. One that combines two parts of different letters:
> > our actual "e" with the Spanish serpent-like line over
> > the "" (ASCII code: 164).
> >
> > In case this is not clear you will find these letters
> > in a web page of a Dictionary:
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > A. Have you seen these letters in any language? Which
> > one?
> u-tilde is used in Greenlandic and in other languages with
> nasalized vowels. e-tilde is used in Vietnamese, as well
> as in languages with nasalized vowels. q-tilde is likely
> just used as a manuscript abbreviation.
> >
> > B. Have you seen fonts of those languages? Can I see
> > them in a web page? Tell me the exact electronic
> > address.
> All of these except the ct-ligature glyph are easily available
> with most Unicode fonts. For a ct-ligature glyph (and
> long-st ligature glyph) you need to look for specialized
> fonts for old typographical traditions.
> --Ken Whistler

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