Punctuation Graveyard: The Hedera

Today in Punctuation Graveyard, we resurrect the curious mark known as the hedera.

hedera

What exactly is the hedera, and why was it used?
The hedera is a lovely piece of punctuation primarily found in early Latin and Greek texts. Its purpose was to signify a break between paragraphs, as well as to look nice upon the page. Also known by some as a fleuron, the mark had a strictly ornamental use, perhaps the reason for its extinction. Whereas in these modern times we use simpler symbols such the asterisk and the pilcrow to show breaks, the more complicated hedera was a predecessor to these modern markings, albeit a more aesthetically pleasing one.

What does it look like?
The hedera can be described essentially as a floral heart, but can appear differently depending on the variant used. The word itself is Latin for ivy, and this origin clearly shows in the styling of the mark, which has a tendency to have vine-like swirls branching off from it. There are many different variants and designs of the hedera, and the mark can be placed vertically or, alternatively, rotated onto its side and displayed horizontally. For a look at the many different appearances it can take, a font exists that showcases many of its styles.

How do I use it?
The hedera was used ornamentally to signify a break in text. While it is uncommon in today’s day and age, it can still be used, and can even be found in a few typefaces. There are several ways to produce a hedera/fleuron digitally. The simplest method is to copy and paste the mark from their usage in this sentence, otherwise, it can be found as Unicode character U+2766 () for the vertical variant, or U+2767 () for the horizontal variant.

In Summary:
The hedera is a beautiful piece of ornamental punctuation which was used to show a break between text. While its usage has dwindled over the years, it has not yet completely disappeared from our midst, and can still occasionally be found in use today (such as in The Wordict’s very own website header!).hedera

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