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For example, in Verses upon the duke of Buckinghams returne from the Ile of Rees (https://www.english.cam.ac.uk/ceres/ehoc/lessons/lesson1/index.html) the poet spells "art" as "ar't" in the phrase "And ar't return'd again with all thy faults..."

What is that apostrophe eliding?

Addition: I see that the OED shows "art" as the second person singular (archaic) of the verb "to be", with a citation "1535 Bible (Coverdale) Psalms cxxvii. 2 O well is the, happie art thou." So there is a use with the following "thou", so "ar't" can't be a contraction of "are thou".

My thoughts are converging on the apostrophe being a mistake (much like so many people now use apostrophes in plurals - "Pad's available") caused by the writer thinking that "art" is a contraction of "art thou". Shakespeare uses "Art cold?", "art mad?" in King Lear without the apostrophe (ref First Folio), but later writers quoting King Lear insert the apostrophe for some reason (cf Wells, Poetic Imagery, 1924).

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    Since the Duke of Buckingham led the military expedition the Île de Ré ('Ile of Rees') in 1627, and Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, the tag 'elizabethan-english' is not really appropriate, and also this is a matter of transcription. – Michael Harvey May 26 at 10:34
  • As the example is from a piece of verse it's possible that the apostrophe is an indication of non-standard pronunciation used to maintain the metre. This would make it similar to the hyphen sometimes used in hymn books giving phrases like "Bless-ed be the Lord". A grave accent is now more common but the hyphen used to be used a lot. – BoldBen May 26 at 10:42
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    @MichaelHarvey Since there is no jacobean-english tag, I thought elizabethan-english would be the most helpful. I don't think the language changed that much in a few years to make my use of the tag misleading. Also, this has nothing to do with transcription: the apostrophe is in the manuscript. – D Mac May 26 at 14:33
  • Quite possibly the manuscript is a copy made by a scribe. – Michael Harvey May 26 at 14:41
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If the apostrophe in "ar't" is simply an error by the author, it is not the only one on this page. For example, I note three occurrences of the word "did[']st"—two without an apostrophe (didst) and one with an apostrophe (did'st). The presence or absence of the apostrophe in the case of didst is arguably acceptable either way—since didst could be read as a contracted form of "didest [thou]"—presumably the ancestral form from which didst sprang. Nevertheless, the lack of consistency in the writer's handling of didst on this page raises the possibility that he viewed apostrophes as something closer to optional ornaments than to necessary elements.

Less immediately explicable than the inconsistent treatment of didst and did'st is the word hope't in line 12 of the poem:

Or didst thou hasten headlong to prevent

A fruitlesse hope't for needfull parliament?

In modern U.S. English, an editor would probably render that second line as follows:

A fruitless, hoped-for, needful Parliament?

—so it isn't as though the apostrophe in hope't signals the loss of, say, an s from hopest. If anything, hopet is a letter too long to begin with: after all, writers generally see no reason to add an e (or an apostrophe) before the t in burnt or learnt or spoilt or spilt. (Admittedly, none of those root verbs ends with an e.) The case would be different if the word in the line had been hop'd—since that spelling clearly involves the loss of an e.

However, in a comment beneath this answer, Peter Shor points out that the spelling "hope't" helps the writer avoid a misreading of hopt or hop't as short forms of hopped, as well as to signal to readers that the word is not to be read as having two syllables (as they might if he had simply rendered the word as "hopet." As for the writer's wish to avoid "hop'd" (aside from the fact that it, too, might, be misread as a short form of "hopped"), he seems scrupulous in distinguishing between past-tense verbs and verblike adjectives ending in a "d" sound ("return'd," "distempered," "gorg'd," "wrong'd" "bespotted," "tortur'd," compos'd," "oppressed") from those ending in a "t" sound ("hope't," "vex't").

(Speaking of orthographic anomalies, in line 17, the writer renders "there's" as "their's":

But their's a reason worse, then this, they say

—an unusual spelling to choose for a common word, although far more forgivable in 1630 than it would be today. Interchangeable use of then for than, on the other hand, seems to have been quite common in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.)

Returning to the line that the poster is primarily interested in:

And ar't return'd againe wth all thy faults

one might argue that "ar't" is doing duty for two words—"art thou." However, "art" alone could have accomplished the same thing, since "art" implies "art thou," just as "dost" (as used in this poem) implies "dost thou." It seems extremely unlikely that the writer chose the spelling "ar't" because he wanted to create a contraction of the form "ar[t]'t[hou]." I can't think of any similar use of an apostrophe to create a contraction that begins at the front of one word and ends at the front of a second word.

I consider it far more likely that the writer simply stuck the apostrophe in "ar't" on an unconsidered or ill-considered whim, without any sense that it was marking the loss of one or more letters from one or two contracted words. If you had access to more than this single page of the manuscript, you could check to see whether the writer consistently uses "ar't" for "art thou," or whether this is simply a variant form that slipped in (like "did'st" in line 9).

My guess is that the writer usually rendered the word as "art" with no apostrophe, but that on this occasion his pen or his wandering thoughts led him to a different orthographic choice. I strongly doubt, in any case, that his use of the form "ar't" was intended to adhere to some established rule of punctuation that prevailed in 1630—because I don't think that any such convention with regard to "ar[']t" existed.

Neevertheless, it is quite possible that the writer views the apostrophe as having a far wider range of uses than the modern big three of elision/contraction, possession, and pluralization. The example of "hope't" in this page indicates that the writer may use the apostrophe to indicate a pronunciation shortened from two syllables to one—and perhaps he also considers it useful for other obscure or idiosyncratic purposes, such as to distinguish "art" used in one basic sense of the word from another.

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    The apostrophe in hope signifies that it should be pronounced one-syllable hoped and not two-syllable hopèd. The author couldn't write hopt or hop't because that might be taken as hopped and not hoped. and he couldn't write hop'd because hoped ends with a /t/ and not a /d/. Perfectly explicable. Later, the spelling in poetry signifying the one-syllable pronunciation became standardized as hop'd. Shakespeare (around the same time) used this convention. But the author for some reason doesn't. – Peter Shor Jun 28 at 17:58
  • 'd (apostrophe d) was used around that time even in words where the d is pronounced [t]. – Rosie F Jun 28 at 18:26
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    The author possibly had some kind of bugaboo about writing "d" if it was suppos't to be pronounced /t/. – Peter Shor Jun 28 at 19:29
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    It seems to me, having read this clear analysis that the author has assumed the longest possible form of each ending and taken everything else as an abbreviation. Thus jump+ed→jumped, so hope+ed→hopeed→hope'd; speak+est→speakest, so did+est→didest→did'st and are+est→areest→ar't. I need to make it clear I am not suggesting this is where these words actually came from, but it does seem possible that this was the author's logic. – David Robinson Jun 28 at 19:40
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    @SvenYargs: There is what seems to be a different version of this poem in Google books in the Diary of John Rous. – Peter Shor Jun 28 at 20:01

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