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Michael Schlierbach's picture
Joined: 8 Jan 2003 - 11:00am
Dagger-Sign
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I’m looking for information about the history of the
Dagger-Sign

seanmichael's picture
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Joined: 16 Dec 2002 - 11:00am
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I believe the symbols origin is a sign for death.
It was marked on coffins. I think.

A current use is to mark that a person is
deceased — in a body of text.

If anyone has a copy of E.T.S. handy ( mine
is at home ) I am sure there is a section on it.
If no one comments further I will provide more
info tonight.

-smc

seanmichael's picture
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Accidental double post.

Michael Schlierbach's picture
Joined: 8 Jan 2003 - 11:00am
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I have read E.T.S. (you mean Bringhurst?).
But it’s not quite detailed. I think in the later use the confusion
or double signing dagger/cross is of course there, as today, and in the
following the use as a cross and sign of death or religious things.

But the early term “obelisk” doesn’t seem to reference to the
cross as a religious symbol. “asterisks and obelisks” has been
a term for pro and contra in theological scientific dicussions
in the 16th century (Martin Luther vs. Johannes Eck). And it results
from the signs used in the (biblical) text for marking marginals. In this
context it doesn’t make sense if dagger/obelisk=cross
because asterisk and obelisk should be on the same level.

So my question is about the early development, the form, use and understanding
of the sign. Maybe there is any evidence for clarifying its first meaning
 — or even its double meaning from the beginning.

Michael

Matha Stand�n's picture
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Joined: 18 Jan 2003 - 5:13am
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Michael,

According to my Oxford English Dictionary, the obelisk was originally used in ancient manuscripts “to point out a spurious, corrupt, or doubtful word or passage.”

Matha.

seanmichael's picture
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Joined: 16 Dec 2002 - 11:00am
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Perhaps this will help, perhaps not.

The division sign was[ circa 1659]... known either as the obelus or sometimes the obelisk, from a Greek word meaning a roasting spit. The idea seems to have been that such dubious matter was thrust through, as with a spit; the word is the same as that for a tapering pillar, another object with a pointed end. Confusingly, the word obelus was later used for the printer

Michael Schlierbach's picture
Joined: 8 Jan 2003 - 11:00am
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Matha, sean: thank you!

interesting info!
There seem to be a lot of implications. But most of them come
from a later view (especially those connections to paganism).
To me it seems that the pointer root (or roasting spit — nice!)
is the most early. It makes the most sense, for with a pointer you can
optically point out best those spurious or interesting passages within a text.
This would imply that first there was no reference to religious symbols
may it be the cross or any other.

And as far as I know those theologians (I myself studied protestant theology),
they were much more rational and functional in their work.
Maybe they didn’t have a cross or something like that in mind.
Otherwise — I think — there should have been some reflection on this use of a symbol.
Very interesting for me: Those mathematics-use.

But I’d like to trace it to the ground: Does any of you know early manuscripts
or prints with the dagger where its form and meaning can be seen?

Michael

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Michael, try to get your hands on “Pause and Effect” by M B Parkes — it has gobs on the history of punctuation marks. I had a copy from a library, but no longer.

hhp

Michael Schlierbach's picture
Joined: 8 Jan 2003 - 11:00am
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Hrant, thank you.
I immediately tried to find it, but I didn’t succeed:
Not abebooks, nor amazon, nor german-european used books site gave me any
reference to Parkes :-(
Do you know any special site to look there?

Stephen, thats a very interesting thread.
I didn’t know it before. Thank you for leading me there.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I like to dig out a natural understanding and use of that symbol.
I think it’s much more nice, humanistic and feeding visual competence
to use asterisk, dagger, double-dagger and pilcrow for marking marginals and similar things in some cases,
than those always boring numbers, who always remind of scientific essays.

But with (mis-)understanding the dagger as a cross, its use is reduced to a few things.

Michael

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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If bookfinder.com can’t locate a copy, it’s pretty bad…

Your best bet is a good university library — you might need to do an Inter-Library Loan request.

hhp

David Perry's picture
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Joined: 2 Mar 2003 - 1:27pm
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The obelus or dagger is still used in scholarly editions of classical texts to mark passages that are seriously corrupt.

David

Kenn Munk's picture
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Joined: 1 Oct 2002 - 11:00am
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There are some interesting things going on here, asterisks mark a beginning, birth, alfa and daggers an ending, a death, omega. Maybe the Alfa/Omega thing is coincidental. Does anyone know when the dagger first appeared?

I don’t agree with interpreting Egyptian obelisks as purely phallic, Obelisks are meant to be ‘solidified rays of sunlight’.

Michael Schlierbach's picture
Joined: 8 Jan 2003 - 11:00am
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Here is what I’ve found scanning my fonts:

Caslon 14, Centaur /italic, Electra
Caslon 14CentaurCentaur italicElectra

Kinesis, New Baskerville, Nicolas Cochin
KinesisNew BaskervilleNicolas Cochin

Quadraat, Carol, Savoy
QuadraatCarolSavoy

oops, looks dangerous

Michael

Emir Bukva's picture
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Joined: 25 Jan 2003 - 11:24pm
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That’s it! I’m not entering the field of typography. Looks too

seanmichael's picture
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Joined: 16 Dec 2002 - 11:00am
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Ha Ha!

Do not forget about the sex though.
It is all about the sex and violence.

-smc

Emir Bukva's picture
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Heler’s essay is hilarious, thanks for the link.

Any other aspects of type (besides sex and violence) I should be aware of? :-) Anyway, back to the topic!

Emir Bukva's picture
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Joined: 25 Jan 2003 - 11:24pm
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Heller’s essay is hilarious, thanks for the link.

Any other aspects of type (besides sex and violence) I should be aware of? :-) Anyway, back to the topic!

Kenn Munk's picture
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Sex, violence and endless hours of kerning and spacing.

Kenn Munk's picture
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but not necesarily in that order.

Stephen Coles's picture
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Joined: 14 May 2001 - 11:00am
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Daggers were discussed at Typographica last June.

Rick Banks's picture
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Joined: 29 Oct 2006 - 6:39am
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Can anyone recommend more beautiful daggers please?

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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Beaufort, Fontesque, Merlin, Oneleigh, Scotch Modern

James Michaels's picture
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Joined: 6 Mar 2010 - 12:54am
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I use footnote-sized daggers all the time but never looked at them enlarged like that. Wow, some of them are amazing.

Rick Banks's picture
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Thanks Nick, appreciate it. I love the Scotch Modern!

Rick Banks's picture
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Does anyone know any daggers with a more rapier/sword feel to them?

Rick Banks's picture
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Also...are there any sans-serifs with unusual daggers and not the standard christian cross!?

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Sounds like you should be making some yourself! :-)

hhp

Rick Banks's picture
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Joined: 29 Oct 2006 - 6:39am
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Touche hrant!

Dave Williams's picture
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Joined: 6 Jul 2005 - 7:21am
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Let's see someone put something like this into their dagger glyph...
...hee hee!

Igor Freiberger's picture
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Joined: 20 Jun 2008 - 8:44pm
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From the font I'm developing:

Riccardo Sartori's picture
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 - 4:20am
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Love the Fontesque one! :-)

William Berkson's picture
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Joined: 26 Feb 2003 - 11:00am
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>not the standard christian cross!?

Not a sans, but here is the one from Williams Caslon Text Regular, which for some reason looks less like a Christian cross :)

Dan Reynolds's picture
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Joined: 20 Jul 2002 - 11:00am
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Here is the dagger and double dagger from Malabar… . The dagger is based ever so vaguely on one of Charles Martel's swords, since the typeface's working name at Reading was Martel.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Nice Dan.

Nina, won't you show off yours?

hhp

Nina Stössinger's picture
Joined: 19 Jun 2006 - 3:01pm
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Ah, dagger time again!

(These are from the typeface I'm working on [a monoline slab, yet unreleased].
I figured it might be interesting / potentially useful to continue the series and make a triple-dagger too.)

Nina Stössinger's picture
Joined: 19 Jun 2006 - 3:01pm
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Some other nice/cool/interesting daggers:

Hoefler Text, Prensa, and RTF Loxley.