A sign/abbreviation for "magister" - first question summary

Janusz S. Bień via Unicode unicode at unicode.org
Tue Nov 6 04:56:35 CST 2018

On Sat, Oct 27 2018 at 14:10 +0200, Janusz S. Bień via Unicode wrote:
> Hi!
> On the over 100 years old postcard
> https://photos.app.goo.gl/GbwNwYbEQMjZaFgE6
> you can see 2 occurences of a symbol which is explicitely explained (in
> Polish) as meaning "Magister".
> First question is: how do you interpret the symbol? For me it is
> definitely the capital M followed by the superscript "r" (written in an
> old style no longer used in Poland), but there is something below the
> superscript. It looks like a small "z", but such an interpretation
> doesn't make sense for me.

I've got almost immediately two complementary answers:

On Sat, Oct 27 2018 at 9:11 -0400, Robert Wheelock wrote:

> It is constructed much like the symbol for numero—only with a capital
> <M> accompanied by a superscript small <r> > having an underbar (or
> double underbar).

On Sat, Oct 27 2018 at  6:58 -0700, Asmus Freytag via Unicode wrote:


> My suspicion would be that the small "z" is rather a "=" that
> acquired a connecting stroke as part of quick handwriting.  A./

and on the same day this interpretation was supported by Philippe Verdy:

On Sat, Oct 27 2018 at 20:35 +0200, Philippe Verdy via Unicode wrote:


> I have the same kind of reading, the zigzagging stroek is an
> hnadwritten emphasis of the uperscript r above it (explicitly noting
> it is terminating the abbreviation), jut like the small underline that
> happens sometimes below the superscript o in the abbreviation of
> "numero" (as well sometimes there was not just one but two small
> underlines, including in some prints).
> This sample is a perfect example of fast cursive handwritting (due to
> high variability of all other letter shapes, sizes and joinings, where
> even the capital M is written as two unconnected strokes), and it's
> not abnormal to see in such condition this cursive joining between the
> two underlining strokes so that it looks like a single zigzag.

Later it was summarized by James Kass:

On Fri, Nov 02 2018 at  2:59 GMT, James Kass via Unicode wrote:
> Alphabetic script users write things the way they are spelled and
> spell things the way they are written.  The abbreviation in question
> as written consists of three recognizable symbols.  An "M", a
> superscript "r", and an equal sign (= two lines).  It can be printed,
> handwritten, or in fraktur; it will still consist of those same three
> recognizable symbols.
> We're supposed to be preserving the past, not editing it or revising
> it.

It was commented by Julian Bradfield:

On Fri, Nov 02 2018 at  8:54 GMT, Julian Bradfield via Unicode wrote:


> That's not true. The squiggle under the r is a squiggle - it is a
> matter of interpretation (on which there was some discussion a hundred
> messages up-thread or so :) whether it was intended to be = .
> Just as it is a matter of interpretation whether the superscript and
> squiggle were deeply meaningful to the writer, or whether they were
> just a stylistic flourish for Mr.

The abbreviation in question definitely consists of three symbols: an
"M", a superscript "r" and the third one, which I think was best
described by Robert Wheelock as double (under)bar, with the connecting
stroke mentioned first by Asmus Freytag.

This third element was referred to, also by myself, as a squiggle, but
after looking up the definition of the word in a dictionary

      a short line that has been written or drawn and that curves and
      twists in a way that is not regular

I think this is a misnomer. Unfortunately I have no better proposal.

Best regards


Janusz S. Bien
emeryt (emeritus)

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