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Is the word abbreviated?
Clerks usually drew the attention of the reader to an abbreviated word
by one of several ways:
2. A flourish after a letter, usually the last letter in a word. The
word below is Testament, but it has been abbreviated to Test
and the clerk has made a mark of suspension after the last letter.
3. A superscript letter - usually the last letter. A word was often abbreviated
by writing the first few letters then the last letter (or a letter near
the end of the word) superscript. For example, the word Edinburgh
was frequently abbreviated this way to Edr. The example below
reads Edr. 7th day of January 1689.
4. A special letter or symbol. The ampersand (&) is the special symbol indicating the word and. It was in use since medieval times and derives from the Latin word et meaning and. By the eighteenth century it is common to find it written like the modern typescript version. But this form was in use much earlier, as the example below (from the mid-seventeenth century) shows:
Look out for abbreviations for the prefixes con- or com- in sixteenth and seventeenth century Scottish documents. There were two common ways of making such an abbreviation. Firstly, a contraction mark could be written in the form of a loop running up from the letter o, as in the word co[m]mand, in the image below.
When written clearly this is not hard to detect, but if written sloppily, makes for difficult reading. In the word co[n]vene below, the o is not well formed and the contraction mark interferes with the letter c.
The second way of abbreviating the prefix con- was to use a special symbol, which is easily confused with the letter g or q. In the word [con]stitut below, the symbol for con looks very like g.
Use of the symbol for con was prevalent in legal records, especially in abbreviating Latin terms. The image below is from the margin of a burgh court book, and gives the name of the parties in the case: Dalrymple [con]tra Stevine
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