Richard Rufus of Cornwall

On Original Sin

The letter g and g abbreviations

The letter g is a fun letter to study, because it varies so much.

  • Its upper lobe can be bigger than its lower lobe or much smaller.
  • The lower lobe can be open or closed.  
  • The lower lobe can balance right on or just barely below its own base line or reach all the way down to the line below. See Columbia University's Plimpton 021, a thirteenth-century
    English manuscript.

These many variations in its appearance can sometimes be used to date a manuscript or identify where it was written.  Like other evidence based on the formation of individual letters of the alphabet, however, it should be supplemented by information about the script as a whole and other letters.

Here are some fun examples of g, with provenance:

Northern Textualis
northern textualis: a script style used in England, most of France, the Low Countries, Germany, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe

  • A twelfth-century English g in which the lower lobe is smaller than the upper lobe. Check out Columbia University's Plimpton 021 (fol. 17v), a thirteenth-century
    English manuscript, for a nice long-tailed g.

  • The Rücken g (g with a back) found throughout Northern Europe is made with a single stroke forming
    the right section of both the top and bottom lobes
  • A distinctively German and Central European g from the fourteenth century that does not go much below the baseline
  • A French g may have a tail that extends considerably to the left
Textualis Rotunda
textualis rotunda: a script style used in Mediterranean countries

  • Common to textualis rotunda is the tendency to leave the bottom lobe open as in the Rücken g at the left
  • Some Iberian g's have "horns". See University of California, Bancroft Library UCB 143 (fol. 137v),
    a fourteenth-century Spanish manuscript and look for magestate.
  • long, round figure 8 g - common in bookhands
  • can also be a Rücken g with an open bottom (see Spanish example)
bookhand: a type of writing used when copying textbooks, as opposed to de luxe or chancery scripts, used for more important documents

Practice with letter g
Which of the following forms are not g?

Read some words with letter g:

This English sample is from Parker Library 021.

The word above is written in a Carolingian script
Carolingian script: European writing from before 1100; the Carolingian g has an open bottom lobe

Two common abbreviations with g
Two of the most common abbreviations in gothic manuscripts are made with g.  They both mean the same thing: "therefore."

  • Igitur, the first example, is a g with a very small (superscript) i above it
  • Ergo, the second example, is a g with a very small o above it

It is often the case that it is hard to tell which is which. If a scribe writes in a cursive hand and connects the i-stroke with the g below,
and makes a little loop, then what he intended as an igitur will look like an ergo.

Which word in the phrase above is one of the two abbreviations?

Word #1
Word #2
Word #3
Word #4
Word #5

Which abbreviation is it?

Challenge: Read the phrase! 

for help look at this