Amy West medievalist at W-STS.COM
Thu Feb 11 14:33:27 UTC 2010

>This sounds quite similar to a symbol found in the New Plymouth
>records.  It can be described as looking like an "e" with a long
>curved tail, and it stands for "es".  Such things were abbreviation
>forms a bit like modern shorthand, to allow scribes to write more
>quickly (as needed for court records, I suppose).

They're called ligatures, like & for "et". Ligatures are used in both
cursive and non-cursive scripts. Chancery cursives are notorious for
their difficulty in reading not only because of ligatures,
abbreviations, marks of suspensions, Tironian notes, and the like
(which are found in other scripts as well but not in the same
amount), but also because the ductus is often cramped and even
non-ligatured letters are run together or otherwise all
smooshy-looking. Chancery cursive is found not only in court records
but account books and other utilitarian rolls where, yes, speed and
brevity is of the essence, and the person who's going to be reading
it is trained to make heads and tails out of it.

---Pedantic Amy West

(The script I hated to read the most was Beneventan, which isn't a
cursive script, but because all the bows of the letters are smooshed
together, the cross members of the letters all run together into a
single horizontal line with a bunch of bows below. It looks like
Sanskrit to me.)

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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