Google Penance: Medieval Punctuation Edition

Edit: Thanks to the commenters who pointed out that both I and my google-using fellow idjut had mispelled the term in question. Information on the Tironean note can be found here.

It’s been some time since I did a Google Penance post, but today someone came here searching for information on the Tyronean Note, a symbol used like an ampersand, to represent ‘and’. I did some googling myself, and there is- unsurprisingly- no information out there on this handy little sign. (My google ranking for ‘Tyronean note’ is higher than it is for ‘Naked Philologist’…)

I do not know much about it, but here is what I do know:

* The Tyronean Note, represented as ‘7’, is used in Anglo-Saxon texts to represent ‘and’. The ampersand (“&”) is also in use in Anglo-Saxon England- Wikipedia cites an example from Byrtferth’s letters. It wouldn’t surprise me if one were in use for Latin texts and the other for Anglo-Saxon, but I have no evidence for this, and I suspect it would change over the course of the period anyway.

* The Tyronean Note looks just like a 7, except that- as in some old ladies’ handwriting- it has a descender instead of an ascender. (That is, if you were in kindergarten, you’d start your 7 at the line which marks the top of your small letter ‘m’, and you would carry it down to the line which marks the bottom of your ‘y’.)

* In modern editions of Anglo-Saxon texts, either a number seven is used, or the word ‘and/ond’ is written out. Sometimes an ampersand [&] is used in place of a 7, but that doesn’t seem to be the standard practice.

* I was once told that the Note had classical origins, but unfortunately, I cannot tell you what they were or where they came from. Nor, sadly, do I know how long the Note was in use for.

The only other thing I know is that I like the Tyronean Note very much, and I now use it in my own notetaking. I’ve never been able to draw &, and used to use + instead. 7 requires one less lift of the pen, and I am a lazy person. Plus, it makes me feel extra nerdy.

Can anyone else contribute some exciting information about the Tyronean Note for the edification of the internet?


Happy Fact on a Sunday

Wulfstan was a puntuation nerd. According to Neil Ker’s article ‘The Handwriting of the Archbishop Wulfstan’, in MSS which were not produced under his direction, where Wulfstan’s handwriting is present in the margins, the punctuation has been edited in places to match the dominant scheme of punctuation in Wulfstanian MSS. You can’t tell for sure, but it is to be assumed that Wulfstan did it himself.

Wulfstan was a punctuation nerd. And, on a more practical note, this is a good indication that the punctuation in Wulfstanian MSS is a scheme designed for reading aloud- why else would it be important to synchronise older texts which you were also using with your personal scheme of punctuation?

I am also a punctuation nerd. This makes me feel that I have some kind of affinity with our favourite grouchy Archbishop. I own a teapot mat decorated with ampersands. Sadly, it was not available with Tyronean Notes on it, otherwise I could fondly imagine that that Archbishop Wulfstan would have appreciated it too.