Pointing the finger, or, A handy guide to manicules

Special Collections and Archives / Casgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau

IMG_0789A manicule, from the Latin maniculum or ‘little hand’, is a punctuation mark created by or for readers to assist in marking noteworthy passages or finding a section of text. Medieval and Renaissance scholars commonly used the symbol, consisting of a hand with an extended index finger, to direct attention to important text alongside other punctuation marks such as the trefoil (a three-leaved plant) and the asterisk.

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IMG_0806The manicule, also known by numerous other names such as pointing hand, index and bishop’s fist, was in common usage between the 12th and 18th centuries, until its complex design appears to have made it too slow for handwriting and readers stopped taking the time to draw their little pointing hands.

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Many of the earliest books in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection, including the incunabula currently being catalogued, have margins full of wonderful examples 20130515_140743of hand-drawn and printed manicules which vary…

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