Medieval Writing
The History of w

The letter w does not occur in Latin and is not part of the ancient Latin alphabet. It is a letter which appears from Germanic languages, including Old English. It can therefore sometimes appear in Latin documents in personal or place names, and in the occasionally interpolated vernacular word or phrase. In English particularly, it may be given an extravagant treatment, almost in celebration of its unique status. While it most commonly appears at the beginning of a name, and might be regarded as a capital, the same enlarged form appears in the middle of a word, which looks quite peculiar at times.

Einhard, the contemporary biographer of Charlemagne, tells us that the multiskilled king not only encouraged Latin literacy in his court, he also wrote down the old Frankish tales and legends in their original language, adding new letters for the sounds not found in Latin. If the king performed this feat, or caused someone else to perform it, the results have not survived. It seems that in old Germanic vernacular writings, the way to represent w was by repeating u in the form of two separate letters.
old Germanic w This shows the word ward, with the w written as uu, as delineated in a 9th century German codex.
The Germanic cultures had their own alphabet in the form of runes, which have mainly survived from inscriptions. The Early English language made use of several of these for English sounds not found in Latin. One of these was the wen character, representing w.
Anglo-Saxon w The word wille from a 10th century Anglo-Saxon poem written in insular minuscule script. The letter for w might easily be mistaken for a p.
Old English w This 12th century example of insular minuscule from the Old English section of a bilingual charter retains the antique form of w.
When w makes its appearance in English documents, it has the form of two interlocking v shapes.
protogothic w This example of w comes from the same document as the previous, but in a Latin section containing some personal and place names as well as Old English words for legal terms. The script for this section is Caroline minuscule, or possibly protogothic, depending on how you see it.
Caroline minuscule w This example of w is from a 12th century forged charter, and represents a late example of Caroline minuscule.
protogothic w In this rather informally penned Latin writ of the 12th century, the w has a lopsided look. I guess you would call this a protogothic charter hand.
diplomatic minuscule w When the letter appears in a very formal document from the German imperial chancery of the 12th century in a diplomatic minuscule script, the lopsided double v is given a little extra flourish.
calligraphic w A 13th century English charter in the Latin language and written in a calligraphic document hand also employs the lopsided double interlocked v with flourish.
Gothic charter w This example comes from a very elegantly written ecclesiastical document of the 13th century from England. In this case the lopsided double v form of w is rather more rounded.
When w does appear in formal Gothic book hands in vernacular texts, it fits in as best it can.
Gothic textura w This example of w comes from the English version of a bilingual song text from the 13th century, and livens up the double v form with a bit of calligraphic pizzazz. The script is Gothic textura.
Gothic textura w A 15th century Dutch language book of hours has used a less extravagant form, constructed neatly from minims. This is also Gothic textura, and all the other letters are very similar to those from the example above.
In later document hands and cursive scripts, the letter w really came into its own with some amazing elaborations.
more about w
Histories of Individual Letters

History of Scripts
What is Paleography?

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