Dick Johnson shared an exchange he had recently with reader Nick Graver of Rochester, NY., which informed the latest entry from his Encyclopedia. Thanks!
Nicholas Graver inquired this week asking a question that sent me on a delightful research journey. I found the answer, a term I did not have in my Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology. So I will have to add it to the next revision. Here’s what Nick said:
Most of my early George Eastman Long Service medals have “dots” between words in the inscription.
So*the*words*are*separated*like*this. But not all have the ‘dots.’
What is the proper term for such dots? Is there a convention [custom] that dictates when such ornaments are used? I suspect it goes way back in history to Roman inscriptions on ancient buildings? I will be corresponding and later publishing an article and need to mention them correctly.
The most common use in numismatics is center dot. Technically it is interpunct, meaning interword separation. But it also called centered dot, interpoint, middle dot and middot, according to Wikipedia.
Nick is correct in that it does originate with Latin inscriptions on buildings. These were all in capital letters with the center dot punctuation mark between words. The same custom exists for legends, the lettering on coins and medals adjacent to the item’s edge. When these became heavily abbreviated, particularly for titles of royalty the center dots became mandatory to separate the abbreviated titles.
In Latin American and some European countries the center dot on their coins became more elaborately designed. Center dots were replaced by rosettes, stars, four leafs and such. These were similar to a class of type used by printers, known by colorful names as dingbats and doodads . The punches which made these ornamental center marks, were made, in fact, by the same type houses which supplied printer’s type.
More recently the center dots are still found on modern coins and medals for artistic effect. In cataloging and describing mention should be made of center dots and their shape. Many computer type faces have these same designs in their symbols section.
The short answer for Nick is to call them center dots.
Thanks. I like "interpunct" and may have to find a way to work it into casual conversation. The Wikipedia article is from outside the numismatic field, and seems fairly complete and well-documented. But there is another meaning of "center dot" in numismatics, as seen in this excerpt from an April 2012 article by Roger Moore in The Colonial Newsletter (available on the Newman Numismatic Portal).
When a die-sinker wanted to add legends to a die, he would often use a compass to create so-called scribe lines. One point of the compass was pressed into the center of the coin—often
making an indentation in the die—while the other point was used to inscribe two circles of different
diameters. These circles, or scribe lines, were then used as guides for the placement of
the legends. The center dot and occasionally the scribe lines from the dies were sometimes
struck onto the finished coins...
To read the complete Wikipedia article, see:
To read the Colonial Newsletter article, see:
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