Online Tuition in the Palaeography of Scottish Documents

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Are there any superscript marks?
Look above the line for dots and dashes. Dashes normally signify abbreviations, but look also for a short superscript curl, which might signify the letter u (see minims in the Letter Finder). A dot should indicate the letters i or j, but be careful not to misread a blemish or ink-speck for a dot. Also look out for a dot appearing over the wrong letter when a speedy writer's momentum carries the dot past its proper place: if a dot appears above a series of minims it may be above the wrong minim.

A curl above the line can indicate the letter u, to distinguish it from the similar letter with two minims - n, as in the word Douglas illustrated below.

Douglas, the letter u bearing a tittle mark

A dash above a word normally indicates that the word has been contracted, and that something is missing. This dash can sometimes look like a curl. The word below starts with 4 minims, the first of which has a dot above it. The curl indicates that the letter m has been missed out. The word should read im[m]ediat.

the word im[m]ediate with a superscript line indicating a missing letter m

The word below contains a contraction mark and a dot above 7 minims between the letters Co and on: Co|||||||on. The dot indicates the letter i, the dash indicates that letters un are missing, and the word is Comm[un]ion.

the word Comm[un]ion with a superscript line indicating the missing letters u and n.

Dashes above the line can be difficult to spot where they interfere with other letters. The contraction mark in the word below is confusingly written through the letter l. The word is vmq[uhi]le (meaning 'deceased').

the word vmq[uhi]le, meaning deceased, with a superscript line indictaing the missing letters u, h and i.

Be very wary about dots and dashes as they may be blemishes in the paper or heavy pen strokes printing through from the other side of the paper. In the following image the word shown consists of the letter s and 5 minims: s|||||. There appears to be a dot above the minims, which might tempt one to equate one of the minims with the letter i. However, the dot is merely a blemish in the paper, and the word here is sum.

the word sum with a dot which is a paper blemish not a dot for a letter i.

If this hasn't solved the problem try another option:

Capital Letters

Double Letters
Ligatured Letters
Idiosyncratic Letters
Bad Writing

Return to the Problem Letters page.