172 SHADY CHARACTERS
more realistic suggestion.1? He opined that the conscientious reader
should “observe occurrences of striking words, archaic or novel dic¬
tion, cleverly contrived orwell adapted arguments, brilliant flashes
of style, adages, example, and pithy remarks worth memorizing,” and
that such passages should be marked by an appropriate little sign.”'®
Erasmus left the choice of this “appropriate little sign” to his readers
and overwhelmingly, they chose the manicule.
* * *
T T nlike the pilcrow, which wended its way from К for kaput to the
VJ more familiar f over a millennium, or the octothorpe, which
metamorphosed from “lb” to 1Ѣ and then #, the manicule’s bluntly
representational form has remained nearly unchanged since its earli¬
est reported instances. Once, there were no manicules; then, spring¬
ing fully formed into existence, there they were.
The earliest attested manicules appeared in the Domesday Book,
the exhaustive survey of England carried out for William I in 1086.”
The “Winchester Roll” or “King’s Roll,” as it was called at first, was
intended to be an authoritative record of land ownership-а “dooms¬
day” judgment from whichno deviation would be brooked, occasioning
the book’s later nickname.20 Frustratingly, the only direct reference to
the manicules used in this nine-hundred-year-old document is a brief
aside in a rambling 1824 treatise on the art of Typographia. Its author,
John Johnson, lists ” (no name is given) alongside other “marginal
references” such as the Maltese cross (*), the ancient Greek asteris-
( • ), the dagger (f), and a bevy of apparently abstract geometric
symbols, then dismissively writes that these inscrutable marks “in
most instances explain themselves.”2’ He says no more on the subject.
The manicule next surfaced in the twelfth century, though solid
facts about its use in this period are thin. Geoffrey Ashall Glaister’s
comprehensive Encyclopedia of the Book describes the symbol as the
THE MANICULE У* 173
“digit,” and alleges that it was “found in early twelfth century (Span¬
ish) manuscripts.”22 As with Johnson’s dismissal of the Domesday
Book’s “self-explanatory” reference marks, Glaister’s factoid is dashed
off with no corroboration (this author has come across at least one
twelfth-century English book displaying a manicule, as seen in Figure
9.2), and detailed information about this early chapter of the mani¬
cule’s life remains tantalizingly out of reach.23
Starting in the fourteenth century, life in Europe began to shift
away from medieval norms. New trade routes to the Orient and
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Figure 9.2 A twelfth-century English text, Leges angliae (Laws
of England), decorated with a manicule. Also noteworthy here are two
-shaped asterisks linking a marginal note with the main text, and the
numerous Tironian ets scattered throughout.