Palaeography is the study of old writing. And as often as I’ve had to hunt through old manuscripts for points (·), pilcrows (¶), virgules (/) and the like, I am not a palaeographer in anything more than the loosest sense. Given this, was a pleasant surprise to find myself chairing a session at a palaeography conference called DigiPal V, held at King’s College London just a couple of weeks ago. I was there at the invitation of Stewart Brookes, King’s College’s resident digital palaeography specialist, who kindly moved me sideways from presenter to chair when I pleaded an inability to come up with a decent paper in time.
Shady characters seem to be popping up in the mainstream media more and more regularly these days. Having discussed its signature use of the diaeresis only a few weeks ago, this month the New Yorker turns its attention to the ‘þ’, or ‘thorn’, a medieval consonant used to represent a ‘th’ sound. In a post on the magazine’s book blog, Mary Norris explains how she shepherded a stray thorn through the composition and proofreading processes — and apparently met with very little resistance in doing so. This heartens me as to the prospects for the Shady Characters book; the ‘þ’ is positively prosaic compared to some of the Unicode mining I’ve been engaged in of late.