Early superior letters

I'm trying to find early examples of superscript setting. I've no idea when superiors were first introduced or in which language, so I don't know where to start.

Any clues?

Comments

  • If it was me, I'd start with Google, of course.  But after that, Thomas Milo is a linguistic scholar with a wide range of knowledge - including ancient scripts. Don't know if he's a member of this forum, but I'll pass the question along. (He's the first guy I'd ask, no  offense to the other scholars who I don't know about.) 
  • Igor FreibergerIgor Freiberger Posts: 153
    edited April 2016
    For Latin script, superiors were used in Latin tachygraphy during the Merovingian period, since 5th Century. Vowels associated with |r| were suppressed and wrote above the precedent consonant. Some evolutes to mean the whole word, as gratia (g with superscript a) or supra (s with superscript a).

    Also in low Medieval Age there are abbreviations with superscripts after the letter, the way we adopt now. Two of the early where º and ⁹. The first was used to abbreviate Latin suffixes -itio and -itium. The second was somewhat like a bigger comma or open 9 and abbreviates -ius. Tironian notes used several marks as abbreviation, but none was a superior.

    I don't know about other scripts, except that Cyrillic also used several abbreviation marks but its development is posterior.

    For further info, you may try to contact Andreas Stötzner and visit MUFI pages. There is also Capelli's book, available online and a good reference. Besides this, any search about Latin paleography will bring interesting clues. Of course, the help from a scholar will be far more useful as my knowledge is quite limited.
  • Now I'm wondering what we're defining as superscripts. Or superiors.  The Hebrew Torah has Cantillation and gemination marks, that appear above, below, upper right, etc...
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantillation
    And some are definitely for abbreviating - or so they function. 
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,729
    edited April 2016
    Tiberian vocalisation of Hebrew — the kind the Masoretic and modern vowel marking system uses — wouldn't count as superscripts in the sense about which I take Miles to be asking, i.e. small, raised forms of letters. But small letters positioned as marks are part of the Babylonian vocalisation system. [Similarly, superscript letters occur in the Qur'an, although I'm not sure of their significance or when they became part of the standard text.]

    And some are definitely for abbreviating - or so they function. 

    Are you sure about that? The nikkudot (vowels) and te'amim (cantillation marks) employed in the Masoretic Bible text are applied to a consonantal text that precedes them by well over a thousand years. That consonantal text is not modified by the marks, only vocalised.

    The only instance I can think of where the vocalisation indicates a difference between the written and the spoken text is in the Name, where the vocalisation marks serve as a reminder to say 'Adonai' (Lord) rather than pronounce the personal name of God.
  • There are a few other examples of Qere Perpetuum. The classic example other than יהוה is the word הִוא ("she") that looks like it's pronounced hiw but is actually read as , because You're Expected To Know.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,729
    There's also the extra yod-less hiriq in Jerusala-im, which is my favourite oddity.
  • (Sorry, I was trying to copy "yod-less hiriq" into my list of things to call other drivers, and I might have hit the "Off Topic" button by accident). 
  •  According to the way I was taught, the red dot to the upper left of the lamed is a kind of marker for the "full" character to the left of the lamed in this:

    (Look, they lied to me about a lot of stuff at Talmud Torah. If it ain't so, I just add it to the list.)
    BTW - @Miles Newlyn I did pass along the link to this thread to Thomas Milo. He's under a deadline right now, but curious fellow that he is, I'm sure he'll stop by at the earliest opportunity.  
  • Well, as of-topic as it became, this all reminded me of another very early use of (arguably) superscript forms: Kanbun are classical Chinese texts meant to be parsed, translated and read as classical Japanese, and because Chinese and Japanese word order is different, they contain annotational characters (kaeriten) to indicate the order of reading the characters. These are smaller versions of full kanji characters, and although they were written in vertical texts, if you think about their positioning in respect of the main line you could think of them as being in a superscript position.

    Kanbun has been used since the Heian period (9th century) which would make it pretty early, but I don't know when the annotations started. I've seen them in handwritten texts but I wouldn't be surprised if initially you were expected to be able to read classical Chinese without auxiliary help.
  • @Richard Fink thanks Richard. I'm only interested in printed Latin.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,729
    Richard, the red dot on the lamed is ḥolam. It's true that ḥolam has the same pronunciation as ḥolam male, which is the combination of vavḥolam, but it is a bit misleading to say that the dot without the vav is an abbreviation for the latter.

    The Bible text was originally written with letters only, no marks. And some of those letters, some times, were pronounced as vowels. The vav is one of these letters: some times a consonant [v] and sometimes a vowel [o]. When the Masoretes wrote vocalisation marks into their Bibles, they put ḥolam on those instances of vav that represented the vowel [o], but also wrote in ḥolam for [o] where the original text contained only consonants.
    _____

    Anyhoo... bringing this back on topic, this Wikipedia article on Babylonian vocalisation illustrates some superscript letters.

  • The Bible text was originally written with letters only, no marks. And some of those letters, some times, were pronounced as vowels. The vav is one of these letters: some times a consonant [v] and sometimes a vowel [o]. When the Masoretes wrote vocalisation marks into their Bibles, they put ḥolam on those instances of vav that represented the vowel [o], but also wrote in ḥolam for [o] where the original text contained only consonants.
    Aha! Thank you.

    Anyhoo... bringing this back on topic, this Wikipedia article on Babylonian vocalisation illustrates some superscript letters.
    Does this example count? I mean, the Jews in Babylonia were a captive audience, you could get away with anything!   B)  (When is there going to be a rim-shot emoji? I gotta talk to Unicode about that.) 

    Thank you, I enjoy Judaic arcania, but I don't have the time right now. But you da man.

    @Miles Newlyn

    I was scouring John Boardley's latest scholarly work on early Roman type.
    Take a look:
    http://ilovetypography.com/2016/04/18/the-first-roman-fonts/
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,729
    Does this example count? I mean, the Jews in Babylonia were a captive audience, you could get away with anything!

    Oh this is much, much later than the Babylonian captivity: 6–7th Century CE. It's Babylonian as distinct from Palestinian (Tiberian), i.e. eastern Masoretes rather than western.
  • Igor FreibergerIgor Freiberger Posts: 153
    edited April 2016
    Miles: as I said above, use of superscript was established in Medieval manuscripts. So it was adopted since the very first printings. A short answer to your question is "Latin, circa 1454":

     

    This is the first page from the first volume of a Gutenberg's Bible. Use of superscripts letters similar to ⁵ and ⁹ are present, besides the widely adopted tilde.
  • edited April 2016
    @Igor Freiberger the ⁹-like symbol is ꝰ, the abbreviated “-us” and the ⁵-like symbol, I’m guessing, is ˢ, superscript s (not superscript in some editions).
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,458
    Gutenburg’s superscript s was odd, as it was used at the end of lines, and was truncated in form, starting off (in stroke) like a normally sized long s, then finishing early. It’s like there was a conflict between which shape of s was appropriate, so it became a mix of both and neither. 



  • I was scouring John Boardley's latest scholarly work on early Roman type.
    Take a look:
    http://ilovetypography.com/2016/04/18/the-first-roman-fonts/
    this is a great place to start, thanks you Richard.

    @Igor Freiberger thanks - I'm sorted now :-)
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