Letter a

The Secretary Hand letter a is not dissimilar to the modern (written, as opposed to printed) a. In its most definitive form it has a diagonal stroke leading from bottom left to top right. This is sometimes referred to as an attacking stroke. It appears below on its own and in the word thame:

a thame

The stroke was invariably made with lighter pressure of the pen than other parts of the letter, but where it is written more heavily it can look very odd to the modern eye, as in the words all and awand below:

all awand

Likewise, a lead-in stroke can combine with the diagonal stroke and confuse the unwary reader:


There was a tendency for the writer to press down more heavily at the beginning and end of the stroke. After centuries of fading, most of this diagonal stroke can almost completely disappear, leaving what looks like an apostrophe or an acute above the following letter.

The diagonal stroke can interfere with words written above the a. In the example below, the word Item is interfered with by the diagonal stroke of the letter a in the word aittis beneath it. The interference is quite minimal in this case, but in others it can cause more problems.

Item aittis