The elements of abbreviation in medieval Latin paleography

The elements of abbreviation in medieval Latin paleography

Cappelli, Adriano

University of Kansas Libraries (1982)


The medieval abbreviation system goes back to the ancient Roman system of sigla, which are isolated letters that represent an entire word. It is also derived in part from the system of Tironian notes, a sort of shorthand that in Roman times was employed primarily to record public speeches. Considerable elements of both the sigla system and that of Tironian notes survive in the widespread medieval abbreviation system that flourished, especially in Italy, from the 10th through the 15th centuries. This is the system of medieval Latin abbreviation whose general rules and principles we shall now examine.

Medieval abbreviations, for both Latin and Italian words, can be divided into six categories, each of which will be treated in turn. Abbreviation can be indicated by:

1. Truncation,
2. Contraction,
3. Abbreviation marks significant in themselves,
4. Abbreviation marks significant in context,
5. Superscript letters,
6. Conventional signs.
Click here to read this article University of Kansas Libraries

Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

medievalverse magazine