Obscure Punctuation #3

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The Hedera

Hederas are an interesting sort of obscure punctuation and despite their lack of formal use, they are worth mentioning. Unlike much of the punctuation I have mentioned thus far, the formal use of the hedera is not well-documented, the creator is not recognized, and the date it was first instated is not either. This lack of stringent documentation is most likely due to the fact that it was primarily used as a page decoration and may have gained functionality as a punctuation mark later. Its name even denotes its aesthetic dominating over its functionality as a formal punctuation mark, meaning “ivy” in Latin.

The hedera has been used to denote a page break in much the same way that the triple asterisk or a large white space has. In fact it wouldn’t shock me to find that the ivy decoration was adapted to a smaller, simplified form to denote page break or scene change simply because there was originally white space and the typographers thought that it would match the aesthetic of the other page decorations to include the hedera.

The reason this is worth mentioning is that the hedera — and hedera derivatives — was so commonly used in older documents and to match with other decorations on the page that it became a noteworthy page break punctuation. Nowadays, hederas are no longer particularly common. We have other numerous ways of indicating page or scene breaks that can be matched with the book or the text thematically, as opposed to simply being chosen for aesthetic purposes.

— Deirdre McCormick, Poetry Editor

Editor’s Note: Deirdre McCormick is a third year Biology Major with a minor in Creative Writing.  She is deeply passionate for both topics and that is evident in much of her writing endeavors.  She was also recently published in Lewis University’s own Windows magazine.

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