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Corrections.—For obliteration or removing pen strokes from the surface of the material the sponge was used in ancient times. While the writing was still fresh, the scribe could easily wash off the ink by this means; and for a fragile material, such as papyrus, he could well use no other. On vellum he might use sponge or knife. But after a MS. had left his hands it would undergo revision at the hands of a corrector, who had to deal with the text in a different manner. He could no longer conveniently apply the sponge. On hard material he might still use the knife to erase letters or words or sentences. But he could also use his pen for such purposes. Thus we find that a very early system of indicating erasure was the placing of dots or minute strokes above the letters to be thus “expunged.” The same marks were also (and generally at later periods) placed under the letters; in rare instances they stood inside them. It need scarcely be said that letters were also struck out with strokes of the pen or altered into others, and that letters and words were interlined. A long sentence, however, which could not be admitted between the lines, was entered in the margin, and its place in the text indicated by corresponding reference marks, such as hd., hs. = hic deest, hoc supra or hic scribas, &c.

Abbreviations and Contractions.—The practice of shortening words in writing has played an important part in the history of the ancient and the medieval manuscript. Two reasons have disposed men to follow this practice: firstly, the desire to avoid the labour of writing over and over again words or portions of words of common occurrence which can be readily understood in a shortened form as when written in full; and, secondly, the necessity of saving space at a time when it was an object to make the most of the writing material to hand. To meet the former requirement, a simple and limited method alone was needed; to satisfy the second, a more elaborate system was necessary. The most natural method of reducing the length of a word is to suppress as much as possible of its termination, consistently with intelligibility, that is, by simple abbreviation. But if space of any appreciable value is to be saved in a page of writing, a system is necessary for eliminating letters from the body of the word as well as curtailing the termination, that is, a system of contraction as well as abbreviation; and, in addition, the employment of arbitrary signs, analogous to shorthand, will serve still further to condense the text. An elaborate system of contraction of this nature was naturally only fully developed after very long practice. Both in Greek and in Latin MSS. from the 9th to the 15th century such a system was in full force.

Different kinds of literature were, according to their nature, more or less abbreviated and contracted. From early times such curtailment was more freely employed in works written in technical language, such as works on law or grammar or mathematics, wherein particular words are more liable to repetition, than in MSS. of general literature. The oldest system of abbreviation is that in which a single letter (nearly always the initial letter) or at most two or three letters represent the whole word. This system we know was in common use among both Greek and Latin writers, and ancient inscriptions afford plentiful examples. It is well adapted for the brief expression of the common words and phrases in works of a technical nature (as for example such a phrase as C D E R N E = cujus de ea re notio est); but for general literature it is of little use, and practically has been restricted to express proper names and numerals.

When abbreviations were employed only with the view of speed in writing, it is obvious that they would occur more frequently in the ephemeral documents of daily life than in carefully written literary works intended for the book-market. Abbrevia-
tion in Greek MSS.
Hence they are not to be found in Greek papyri of the latter class. On the other hand in literary papyri written in non-literary script they naturally occur just as they would in contemporary common documents. As early as the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C. the ordinary method of abbreviation was to omit the termination or latter portion of the word and to mark the omission by a short horizontal stroke or dash; or the letter which immediately preceded the omission was written above the line as a key to the reading, as τελ for τέλος. Such a system obviously might be extended indefinitely at the discretion of the writer. But in addition, at quite an early period, symbols and monogrammatic forms for particular words must have been developed, for they are found in common use in cursive papyri. A notable instance of their employment in a full degree occurs in the papyrus of Aristotle’s Constitution of Athens, of the 1st century.

Like the well-written literary papyri, the early vellum uncial codices of the Bible, being inscribed with calligraphic formality, avoided in principle the use of abbreviations. But by the 4th to the 6th century, the period when they were chiefly produced, the contraction or abbreviation of certain words and terminations had, it seems, become so fixed by usage that the contracted forms were adopted in the texts. They are ΘC = θεός, ΙC = ίησοῦς, ΧC = χριστός, ΠΝΑ = πνεῦμα, CΗΡ = σωτήρ, ΚC = κύριος, CΤΡΟC = σταυρός, ΠΗΡ = πατήρ, ΜΗΡ = μήτηρ, ΥC = υἱός, ΑΝΟC = ἄνθρωπος, ΟΥΝΟC = οὐρανός, Κ = καί, Τ = ται, Μ = μου, μοι, &c. Final Ν, especially at the end of a line, was dropped, and its place occupied by the horizontal stroke, as ΤΟ.

But while this limited system was used in biblical, and also in liturgical MSS., in profane literature a greater licence was recognized. For example, in a fragment of a mathematical work at Milan, of the 7th century, we find instances of abbreviation by dropping terminations, just as in the earlier papyri, and, in addition, contracted particles and prepositions are numerous. Technical works, in fact, inherited the system instituted in the early papyri written in non-literary or cursive hands; and this system, undergoing continual development, had a larger scope when the cursive writing was cast into a literary form and became the literary minuscule script of the middle ages. From the 9th century onwards a fully developed system of abbreviation and contraction was practised in Greek MSS., comprising the early system of the papyri, the special contractions of the early biblical MSS., and also a large number of special symbols, derived in great measure from tachygraphical signs.

In the early Greek minuscule MSS. contractions are not very frequent in the texts; but in the marginal glosses, where it was an object to save space, they are found in great numbers as early as the 10th century. The MS. of Nonnus, of A.D. 972, in the British Museum (Wattenb. and Von Vels., Exempla, 7) is an instance of a text contracted to a degree that almost amounts to tachygraphy. In the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries texts were fully contracted; and as the writing became more cursive contraction-marks were more carelessly applied, until, in the 15th century, they degenerated into mere flourishes.

As far back as material is available for comparison, it appears that abbreviations and contractions in Latin MSS. followed the same lines as those in Greek MSS. We have no very early papyri written in Latin as we have in Greek to show us what Abbrevia-
tions in Latin MSS.
the practice of Roman writers was in the 3rd and 2nd and early 1st centuries B.C.; but there can be little doubt that in that remote time there was followed in Latin writing a system of abbreviation similar to that in Greek, that is, by curtailment of terminations, and that in ephemeral documents written in cursive characters such abbreviation was allowed more freely than in carefully written literary works. The early system of representing words by their initial letters has already been referred to. It was in common use, as we know, in the inscriptions on coins and monuments, and to some extent in the texts of Roman writers. But the ambiguity which must have always accompanied such a system of single-letter abbreviations, or sigla, naturally induced an improvement by expressing a word by two or more of its letters. Hence was developed the more regular syllabic system of the Romans, by which the leading letters of the several syllables were written, as EG = ergo, HR = heres, ST = satis. At a later time Christian writers secured greater exactness by expressing the final letter of a contracted word, as ds = deus, = deo, scs = sanctus. Further, certain marks and signs, many derived from shorthand symbols, came into use to indicate inflections and terminations; or the terminating letter or a leading letter to indicate the termination might be written above the line, as Qo = quo, Vm = verum, No = noster, Si = sint. This practice became capable of greater development later on. Among the special

signs are c = est,

= vel, n = non, p’ = pre, ?? = per, ?? = pro, 9 = termination us. The letter q with distinctive strokes applied in different positions represented the often recurring relative and other short words, as quod, quia.

In Latin Biblical uncial MSS. the same restrictions on abbreviations were exercised as in the Greek. The sacred names and titles DS = deus, DMS, DNS = dominus, SCS = sanctus, SPS = spiritus, and others appear in the oldest codices. The contracted terminations Q· = que, B· = bus, and the omission of final m, or (more rarely) final n, are common to all Latin MSS. of the earliest period. There is a peculiarity about the contracted form of our Saviour’s name that it is always written by the Latin scribes in letters imitating the Greek IHC, XPC, ihc, xpc, and ihs, xps.

The full development of the medieval system of abbreviation and contraction was effected at the time when the Carolingian schools were compelling the reform of the handwriting of western Europe. Then came a freer practice of abbreviation by suppression of terminations and the latter portions of words, the omission of which was indicated by the ordinary signs, the horizontal or oblique stroke or the apostrophe; then came also a freer practice of contraction by omitting letters and syllables from the middle as well as the end of words, as oio, omnino, prb, presbyter; and then from the practice of writing above the line a leading letter of an omitted syllable, as inta = intra, tr = tur, conventional signs, with special significations, were also gradually developed. Such growths are well illustrated in the change undergone by the semicolon, which was attached to the end of a word to indicate the omission of the termination, as b; = bus, q; = que, deb; = debet, and which in course of time became converted into a z, a form which survives in our ordinary abbreviation, viz. (i.e. vi; = videlicet). The different forms of contraction were common to all the nations of western Europe. The Spanish scribes, however, attached different values to certain of them. For example, in Visigothic MSS., qm, which elsewhere represented quoniam, may be read as quum; and ꝓ, which elsewhere = pro, is here = per. Nor must the use of arbitrary symbols for special words be forgotten. These are generally adaptations of the shorthand signs known as Tironian notes. Such are ?? = autem, ÷ = est, ?? = ejus, ?? = enim, ?? = et, v̇ and u̇ = ut, which were employed particularly in early MSS. of English and Irish origin.