I met a ligature "og" in one of the manuscripts. It is hard to see this ligature there (look at the word "logicae". Have you met anything similar? Is there a better manuscript with this ligature or it's just a particular handwriting? "Svmma Logicae" written in ancient calligraphy, apparently showing "og" and "ae" ligatures

  • 7
    That doesn’t look like a deliberate ligature to me, just a case of two letters accidentally ending up a bit too close to one another. Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 12:35
  • Is it like "æ"? Have you got other examples with "og"? Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 12:58
  • 3
    I agree with @JanusBahsJacquet. Note the scrunched-up L, too. It looks to me like the scribe got too generous with his spacing and flourishes in Summa and then was worried about getting all of Logicae in. Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 13:07
  • 1
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a Latin text.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 13:39
  • 1
    @JanusBahsJacquet: I assure you, this is not accidental, and it is commonly considered a ligature in palaeography (see below). Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 22:12

1 Answer 1


That is indeed a ligature and so called in palaeography. It is completely normal in many Mediaeval and Early-Modern scripts. The ligature æ is of the same type. From the Wikipedia article on ligature:

In writing and typography, a ligature occurs where two or more graphemes or letters are joined as a single glyph. Ligatures usually replace consecutive characters sharing common components ...

Medieval scribes, writing in Latin, increased writing speed by combining characters and by introduction of scribal abbreviation. For example, in blackletter, letters with right-facing bowls (b, o, and p) and those with left-facing bowls (c, e, o, d, g and q) were written with the facing edges of the bowls superimposed.

Perhaps some will think a ligature has to be more complex or different from the original shapes of the letters, but this is not so, at least not in palaeography. Ligature is not originally a term intended for post-quill handwriting, but rather for scripts where most letters are normally written separately, where each letter often even consists of several strokes. Perhaps the best criterion is this:

Could you cut the paper or parchment such that you have two intact letters left on either piece? If not, it's a ligature.

Even this is not entirely satisfactory as a definition or criterion: the concept of ligature is not as strictly defined as one might like. Basically any two letters could and would be written attached depending on the scribe, if the shapes allowed it. Compare the attached po in apostolus in this manuscript, first word of the third line (there are also many other simple ligatures in this manuscript):



  • 2
    But so wide a definition basically removes any usefulness the term ‘ligature’ has—if any glyphs that appear next to each other are to be seen as ligatures, then absolutely everything is a ligature. An entire page of text can be said to be a single ligature. I agree that any adjoining glyphs can be made to be ligatures; but I do think there is the difference that a ligature is more than (or rather, different from) simply the sum of its constituents. Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 17:04
  • 2
    @Janus: I understand your point, and I have thought about this myself. But this is definitely called a ligature in palaeography. The main definition I have heard says that a ligature is any combination of letters where at least part of a stroke that is part of the essential body of a letter is shared by another letter. So, in this case, part of the essential body of the o is shared by the essential body of the g. Then there is the question of overlap: it is hard to tell whether they share a stroke or the strokes just overlap. But in both cases it would be considered a ligature. Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 17:39
  • 2
    Of course there are ligatures where one letter (or both letters) has lost some part of its essential body in a ligature without its body being shared with the other letter at all: of course that also counts. Perhaps the best criterion is, can you cut the paper/parchment such that you have two intact letters left on either piece? If not, it's a ligature. It's still not entirely satisfying, I know. It's not a perfectly demarcated concept. Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 17:43
  • 1
    @Cerberus: According to your standards, English cursive writing is just one long series of ligatures.
    – Vector
    Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 21:16
  • 1
    @BraddSzonye: Aesthetics may be part of it, but the primary function of ligatures is to save the scribe some strokes and/or space. Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 0:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.