Online Tuition in the Palaeography of Scottish Documents

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Letter p

The letter p is formed in a slightly different way to the way most of us have been taught to write p. While we are likely to make the descending stroke first and then follow with the chamber, perhaps lifting the pen off the page in between ascender and chamber, the Secretary Hand clerk would start at the left to form the chamber, working anti-clockwise, before drawing the pen downwards to form the descender. Below the Secretary Hand p is on the left and the contemporary p on the right.


Practise writing p the Secretary Hand way to see the difference in formation.


Common words, and components of words, were (and still are) abbreviated in handwriting. One common type of abbreviation in medieval and early modern Scottish manuscripts is the use of slight modifications to the letter p to signify certain prefixes.

A horizontal stroke through the descender signifies the prefix per-, por- or par-

per por par

A curl through the descender signifies the prefix pro-


A wavy line or backward curl running vertically upwards signifies the prefix pre- or prae-

pre prae

All of these should be memorised, but most importantly the prefix for per/ por/ par, which is very common in early modern scripts. It can occur as a prefix, as in the word p[ar]och below.


Or in the middle of the word, as in the word temp[or]ale, below


Sometimes you have to look very carefully to detect it, as it is liable to interfere with the line below, as in the case below, where the words with his p[ar]tie has been written in the space between two lines: above the words in yo[u]r and below the words hath nott.