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The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 24, June 17, 2007, Article 14

TYPOGRAPHIC SYMBOL FOR COIN REVERSE HAS E-SYLUM READERS STUMPED

Last week Ed Snible asked: "Perhaps E-Sylum readers can help me
locate the name and origin of a typographic symbol meaning 'coin
reverse'. The symbol usually looks like mismatched parenthesis: )("

[Well, we've not had a response from anyone as of yet.  It's not
often that E-Sylum readers are stumped by a question on numismatic
literature, but so far we're at a dead end.  Here's a follow-up Ed
wrote in his blog this week:

"This week's E-Sylum covered my quest to discover the name and
origin of the )( symbol. I'd hoped an E-Sylum reader would just
know, but none have contacted me yet.

"Catalogue of the Greek and Roman Coins in the Numismatic Collection
of Yale College, published in 1880 by Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor of
New Haven Connecticut, makes heavy use of the symbol. The
Abbreviations section says that )( is an abbreviation for 'reverse.'

"This is the only American usage that I know of. No explanation.

"The Abbreviations section includes three other symbols, the
ligatures for AV, AR, and AE. The AE ligature is well-supported
on computers. It has its own code in Unicode.

"There are no Unicode characters for the AV and AR ligatures. They
are considered typographic concepts, not letter concepts. For
numismatics, that might not be true. Authors might want to use the
AV and AR symbols to indicate coin metals, but wouldn't want a
font that joined 'AR' or 'AV' in the middle of capitalized word.

"The Medieval Unicode Font Initiative folks are proposing an AV
ligature character. No one is talking about an AR ligature character."

At George Kolbe's suggestion I contacted Kerry Wetterstrom, editor/
publisher of The Celator.  He writes: "I read Ed's original question
in The E-Sylum, and I have never seen )( as a symbol for 'coin reverse.'
I have seen just a forward slash used / to differentiate between the
obverse and reverse descriptions in a catalogue (usually dealer lists,
etc.), but the opposing parenthesis marks are new to me.

"Based on its usage in an 1880 catalogue, it may have been unique to
the catalogue and its author. Even today, we see authors introducing
all sorts of abbreviations, especially online.

"The most often used abbreviations for obverse and reverse are Obv.
and Rev., with variations such as Ob., Rv., etc. popping up.  The AV,
AR and  abbreviations are standard abbreviations for cataloging
ancient coinage, and universally used, both in academic and commercial
publications.

"The next time I speak with Bill Metcalf, the Curator of the Yale
Numismatic Collections, I'll try to remember and ask him about the
1880 catalogue and its usage of )( for coin reverse."

To read Ed Snible's original blog entry, see:
Full Story

 TYPOGRAPHIC SYMBOL FOR COIN REVERSE
 esylum_v10n23a17.html

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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