Alternative r after o

winge's picture

I'm currently (purely as a hobby project) developing a font which takes much of its inspiration from the carolingean minuscule. There it seems that an alternative variant of the letter r often is used after rounded characters - mostly o, but perhaps also after b and p?

But how does it look, really? First I drew a glyph based on my initial impression of the nature of this variant: like the right part of a capital R. But after some further inspection of the few authentic instances that I was able to find on the 'net, I noticed that it instead looked more like a 2, and made a new glyph in that direction:

Two variants of the alternative r.

Am I right in my first guess, that the alternative shape of r has developed as I described (from the right hand part of a regular R)? And does the first one of my two glyphs occur in medieaeval manuscript, and if so, how common is it compared to the "2" variant? That is, how unauthentic would it be, if I used the first variant (seeing that it probably is slightly more legible for modern readers than the second one)?

Also, what is it called (if anything special)? (I tried searching for information on this, but I found it difficult to find much, since I didn't know what to call it.)

eomine's picture

Fleischmann-Gotisch (by Ingo Preuss) has the alternate "r". You can see it in the PDF and in the images available at Myfonts. Quoting Preuss:


A historically interesting letter is the

winge's picture

Thanks for the link. It seems like it is known as

vincent_morley's picture

This form of 'r' was in common use in Irish manuscripts until the 17th century and it was also used in early Irish typefaces - the Queen Elizabeth typeface of the 16th century and the Rome and Louvain typefaces of the 17th century. I am sending a scan of a page from the first book ever printed in Irish (1571) as a new thread (it seems it isn't possible to do so in a reply). The scan shows the alternate 'r' highlighted in red. The contexts are as follows: 1. 'mór', 2. 'shaot(h)air', 3. 'ort', 4. 'uair.

The character doesn't seem to have been included in any of the 18th century typefaces. My impression is that its use in manuscripts also declined during the 18th century and had probably ceased by the 19th century (except in cases where the scribe was trying to make a facsimile of an older manuscript).

More recently, I have included the character in my 'Seanchló na Nod' and 'Bunchló na Nod' fonts - fonts that were created for those who wish to transcribe manuscripts. The alternative 'r' from 'Bunchló na Nod' can be seen in the table of common manuscript characters on the following page at the University College Cork website:

In this font, I followed the common scribal practice of having the bowl of the 'r' the same height as a 'c' and turning the leg of the 'r' into a descender.

With respect to usage, the tendency in Ireland (both in manuscript and print) was to use the alternative 'r' in final positions at the end of words. Its use in medial positions was less common, and I have never seen it used in an initial position. I haven't noticed that there was a greater tendency to use it with round characters, but '-or' is a common ending in both Latin and Irish so this combination is especially common (however '-ir' is also a common ending in Irish and the alternative 'r' often occurs in this combination.

Vincent Morley

vincent_morley's picture

I was unable to send the scanned page showing examples of the alternate 'r' because of file-size restrictions, but I have put the image up on a temporary web-page at the following URL:

I'll leave the page up for a week.

Vincent Morley

Miss Tiffany's picture

Johan, your image didn't upload because it is a PNG.

I've never noticed this before. Can you point us toward the images you used as research?

Miss Tiffany's picture

Gorgeous reminder, Eduardo.

Bleisetzer's picture

In Germany we call it "Rotunda r"

If there is any interest, I can translate the article.


Preußisches Bleisatz-Magazin

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