A Doodle from Work

Since the beginning of June, I’ve got a job as a student assistant at the Medieval German Philology department at my university. As a part of this job, I have been doing some proofreading of various articles recently, and for the past couple of days I have been working on a particularly annoying one. In order not to go crazy over the umpteenth malapropism or literally translated idiom that renders the current sentence incomprehensible – the author isn’t a German native speaker and their command of the language isn’t great – my mind needs some digression once in a while. So during one of those little breaks, I doodled the note on the left today …

This isn’t supposed to become canon, but I was just fooling around, under the influence of a reproduction of page 235r (John 1:1 ff.) of the 42-line version of the Gutenberg Bible that’s hanging framed over my desk … And a pretty doodle it became, I think, so I thought I’d share. Compare for scribal abbreviation goodness (even in early printing!) in the picture on the right, which is a snippet from said framed page.

What you can see in my doodle are abbreviations for some of the most frequently occurring case markers, which I assume would be a likely target of abbreviation if space were limited, or if writing materials were expensive – as was the case for parchment in the Middle Ages. However, since Ayeri is already written with an abugida, I guess that there would not be as much abbreviating as with the Latin alphabet, since abugidas already condense a lot of information to diacritics. What I would expect, however, is leading (/ˈlɛdɪŋ/, the space between lines) to be reduced to a hardly legible minimum, since all the diacritics need vertical breathing space that you would probably rather not waste under some circumstances.

  • “Gospel according to John.” Gutenberg Bible. Vol. 2. Mainz, ca. 1455. 235rb. National Library of Scotland, n.d. Web. 5 Jul. 2012. ‹http://digital.nls.uk/74624118› (Image published under CC-BY-NC-SA license; cropped)