I'm reading through a French engineering text from 1885 (Application des potentiels à l'étude de l'équilibre et du mouvement des solides élastiques by Boussinesq) that uses a couple symbols I don't quite recognize. A page snippet is below, with extra text included for comparison:


The two symbols I'm having trouble with are




I thought the first one could just be script "n", but I'm not so sure. For example, the "u" and "v" symbols used match exactly the "u" and "v" characters used in the italicized text. If it's a Greek symbol, my thought is that it's an eta, which resembles an "n."

The second one looks to be a script "r", though it doesn't resemble the italicized r's in the text. My other thought is that it's a stylized iota.

Any ideas what they could be, given the timeframe of publication or other French stylistic idiosyncrasies of which I'm unaware?


The first letter:

enter image description here

is a stylish w.

The second one:

enter image description here

is a lowercase r

Note: I deduced what these letters represent from other parts of the document and well known formulas:

enter image description here

enter image description here

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  • 1
    Do you happen to have a reference where you've seen these before? I thought the first one might have been a "w" too, but it didn't match the italic script in the text. – grfrazee Dec 12 '15 at 0:35
  • I don't remember having seen such glyphs before. They just can't be anything but a w and an r for mathematical/logical reasons. – jlliagre Dec 12 '15 at 0:49
  • I agree that it makes logical sense, it's just weird to me that the first part of the w meets in a sharp point and the second part is a sweep. Ah, well. – grfrazee Dec 12 '15 at 4:30
  • 2
    If you look closely, you can see that the first part of the "w" doesn't meet in a sharp point as you can see on this picture in a bigger scale : image.shutterstock.com/display_pic_with_logo/342922/189977546/… – SwissFr Dec 12 '15 at 7:06
  • @SwissFr, very interesting, and clarifying. Thanks! – grfrazee Dec 15 '15 at 16:15

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