What Might the Letter "P" Look Like in 1800?

A word about what appears to be an unusual descender on the letter "P."  Mark Hazelbaker of Madison pointed out to me something that I had taken for granted. The capital P has not always been written as it is today, with no horizontal at the base of it. In the 1700’s there were several “hands,” including the Italian hand, the Round or Copperplate hand, the Engrosser’s hand, and several others. To the casual 20th century eye, many look similar, and some look very ornate.

Here are some examples. These are from “George Washington's School Copybook
Geometrical Definitions, Manuscript copybook, 1745-1748” in the library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/trr048.html

Above, in Washington’s writing, are three different capital P’s, with varying bases on the descender.

In the Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, we find in a letter book a Philip Dalby appealing for a government position:

The following is from The American Young Man’s Best Companion, Fisher, George, 1786, Published by Isaiah Thomas, Worcester

The horizontal on the descender was very well known in 1800.

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Craig W. Hazelbaker
Jan 25, 2009