Bartholomew the Englishman

On Dreams

Letter Formations: i/j

Words that contain many minims can be a challenge to decipher -  a problem for medieval readers as well as for modern readers!  "Counting the minims" is a vital trick in reading such words, but it is not error-proof.  Just look at this example:

Is this the word meis? Or is it the phrase in eis? Understanding the text depends on being able to tell whether or not the first minim is an i.  And even reading for context does not always solve the mystery.  Scribes recognized this problem and often attempted to alleviate it by introducing the stroke above i.

How many i's are in the example below? 

Which of these examples contains an i ?

Read these words with i's:

Scribes also began to elongate i when it appeared twice in a row (as in imperii, etc) for the same reason they put a stroke above i: to differentiate the second i from other surrounding minims and to provide a clue as to how to read the word. 

Eventually what was sometimes called the long i (i longa) became a distinct letter of the alphabet, a consonant with a different sound in the various vernacular languages, including English.  But in medieval Latin, though there are two different letter forms (also known as graphs), i/j is only one letter of the alphabet.  There is no more difference in significance between a long i and a short i than between a straight s and a round s.

Both of the example below mean ii. The first is ij and the second is ii



Which word(s) contain j (i longa)?

Which words have either a double i or use the i/j combination?

Read some words that use either i or j :

Challenge: Read the phrase!

for help, look at this


University of Victoria, BC, Bartholomaeus Anglicus 84-61, used with permission from the Department of Special Collections.