Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ligatures and Tachygraphy

There is an intimate relationship between the ligatures (connected writing) introduced in the 8th century A.D. alongside the Minuscule script, and longstanding Tachygraphy practices (shorthand, symbols) among Greeks and Romans.

The first and most obvious case of tachygraphy (shorthand) is the Abbreviations and Symbols used for the Sacred Names (Nomina Sacra), which were introduced way back in the 2nd century at the start of the spread of Christianity.  These are found in just about every early surviving manuscript.   But only a handful of words were so shortened.  Things didn't apparently proceed much further than that for many centuries, even though Roman tachygraphy (shorthand) was known and practiced by military and governments even from the time of Jesus.

But in the 8th century with the development of a formal and organized minuscule script (smaller connected handwriting), the opportunity was taken to make extensive use of many special symbols, which represented common letter combos and were easy to write and rapid to execute on parchment.
Here are a good selection of samples, without which it would be hard to read many later copies of the NT writings:

By Ligatures are meant combinations of letters made for the sake of speed-writing rather than symbols encompassing the meaning of a word or words (i.e., Abbreviations & Symbols.  For those see further below):

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Ligatures were made according to set rules, which were almost always followed in early minuscule MS (8th cent.).  As uncial letter forms were mixed in with pure minuscule (for instance beta, kappa, pi), ligatures were created combining both forms.  In some case super-positioning (placing one letter above another) created yet more new forms.  - Source: B.A. van Groningen, Short Manual of Greek Palaeography, (Leiden: 1940)

We have enlarged and enhanced the original scans from the website, for readability.  Just click on them to see the examples better.

The following abbreviations and symbols (representing meanings of words/concepts) and examples of actual tachygraphy will also be extremely useful:

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Tachygraphy Symbols (Shorthand) often repeated words


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