Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fun with old alphabets

Up on the old Roman frontier, roughly on the English – Scottish border, there used to be a fort called Vindolanda. Way back when, its military significance was its most important feature, but today it is known as the site of the biggest cache of Roman correspondence, written on pieces of wood and wax tablets by a variety of soldiers and others.

There is a website where you can have a look at the handwriting typical of the first century A.D. and even play around with deciphering it. Not easy even if you know Latin!

Elsewhere, there is an article on the web about letters that never made it into the English alphabet, or were there briefly and then faded away. Fun!

Image: insular g.


  1. The author of "Letters That Didn't Make It" does not mentioned that the letters Edh and Thorn are still alive and functioning well in Icelandic (e.g. the writer Þórbergur Þórðarson), as well as in Frisian, the closest genetic relative to English. People learning English from another language are often baffled by the confusing use of "th". I'd be happy to revive the Edh and Thorn.

  2. Wow, and I thought my handwriting was bad!

    I can related some, because I'm trying to learn the Luxeuil longhand, and write it to some degree. I can write my (SCA) names, which I'm pretty proud of. I'm one up on many people I know!

    What is your favorite of those archaic letters? I'm rather fond of the yogh, myself.

  3. Tough question, Liutgard!

    It may be the insular G, but I think it is pretty cool that there was once a letter called "ethel."