To provide students with some guidelins for transcription

2. Transcription @ InScribe

2.1 Abbreviations

Even though the documents and manuscripts provided for transcription in this module are in Latin and English (Old or Middle English, depending on their date), the system of abbreviations that scribes used is remarkably stable across both languages and throughout the medieval period (although variation did, of course, exist).

The frequency and number of abbreviations found is often inversely proportional to the degree of formality of a given manuscript or document. Thus, for example, in the late medieval period, legal documents tend to be more heavily abbreviated than, for example, liturgical manuscripts. However, this kind of generalisation may be challenged by the so-called nomina sacra ('sacred names'), which are usually abbreviated even in the most formal liturgical manuscripts. Thus, it is not uncommon to find words such as dominus (dňs), sanctus (sčs) and deus (dš) (or any of their variations) abbreviated even in the most de-luxe manuscripts.

Here are some of the most common abbreviation marks found in medieval texts:

- an overline for m or n 

- b followed by a 3-like sign for b[us]

- o followed by a 2-shaped r with a cross-stroke across its lower member for -o[rum]

- p with a cross-stroke across its descender for p[er], p[ar], p[or]

- p with an overline for p[re], p[rae

- p with an extra curl on the left of its descender for p[ro]

And here are some examples of nomina sacra:

- ds with an overline on top of the s for d[eu]s (the same with m or o after d for d[eu]m and d[e]o)

- dns with an overline on top of the n for d[omi]n[u]s

- ihs with a cross-stroke across the ascender of h for ie[su]s

- christus (and all its derivations) follow the Greek form xps.

- scs with an overline on top of the c for s[an]c[tu]s

Note that the final letter of each of these clusters will vary according to case.


Finally, with regard to the ampersand (&) and the Tironian nota (7), and despite different arguments as to the most convenient way to expand them, we have decided to render the former as et and the latter as and when found in Old English texts and et in Latin.



Important Note: When expanding abbreviations in the Transcription Tool please remember to use SQUARE BRACKETS as in the following example.

Su[m]ptu[m] d[omi]ne q[uo]s

For a full list of all the marks of abbreviation, suspensions and contractions used in medieval texts see A. Cappelli's Dizionario di Abbreviature Latine ed Italiane (Milano, 1912). You can find its online version here (opens a new window).