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The German Penny Sign in Unicode

In the year 1998 it caught my attention that in UNICODE, the computer code "for all languages and scripts" there were defined a lot of
historical characters, but not the German Penny Sign that had been in use in Germany since the 15th century until at least 1975 after all !
In the Fourties the German Penny Sign started to disappear from the keyboards of German typewriters - mostly to give way for the
American dollar sign and the British pound sign. In the Fifties I still had to learn to write this symbol in school - and from the hand-written
price boards in the victuals market in Munich it did not disappear before the end of the Seventies. E.g.
= 5 pieces 20 pence

Because Unicode is used also for historic texts, in 1998 I wrote an application to the UNICODE consortium to add this symbol in Unicode,
and my application got accepted.
Code U+20B0 was assigned to the "German Penny Sign", meanwhile many fonts have got to contain this character, and most browsers
are now able to display it.
In HTML use ₰ or ₰ - if you see a German Penny Sign at the end of this line, your browser can do it - TEST:
 
  Special announcement to the people in Microsoft in charge of the Character Map (System Tools/Accessory) in Windows:
  The above mentioned character is the historical "German Penny Sign" and NOT a "German Cent Sign"!   -   see ↓↓

The German Penny Sign derives from a "d" with appended tail
(an abbreviation of Latin "denarius") and it appears mostly in one of the following two shapes:

ancient shape:
(see also sample [8] below)
together with Fraktur (German Gothic Print Scripture) and Sütterlin (German Gothic handwriting):
(the base line is indicated in green color)
this character got often - but not always - written with an "abbreviation point"  
 
modern shape:  
(see also sample [17] below)  
together with printed and handwritten Latin scripture:
(the base line is indicated in green color)
this variant of the symbol was always written without an "abbreviation point".
 

The German Penny Sign always stands with its left part (that is the "d" contained) on the base line, and the tail on the right side
normally forms a descender. The upper part of the German Penny Sign is either as high as a capital letter, or a little smaller.
See also the exception explained at reference [22] (below).
I recommend to use the modern shape of the German Penny Sign (U+20B0) in modern Latin character fonts.

Partial magnifications of some of the collected evidences:


In the 15th century:
[01]:


carved in wood


already this archaic variant of the
German Penny Sign is a "d" plus tail:
    = +
(wooden calculation board, Basels/Swizzerland)
The upper symbol is a modification of a German "sharp s"
(= ss = ß) with a little tail below. At that time this was used as
monetary unit symbol for "Schilling" (shilling).

The lower symbol is an archaic form of the German Penny Sign.

Volume II "Zahlschrift und Rechnen" (Numeric Script and
Calculation), page 154, in the book "Zahlwort und Ziffer"
(Numerals and Ciphers), K. Menninger, published by
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1958, 1979 (3rd edition)
[02]:

handwriting


= xviiij ₰
= 19 pennies
(manuscript from 1426, Straubing/Bavaria)

for comparison a normal "d" in "lannd":
on page 51 in the booklet "Unsere Schrift" (Our Script),
published by Degener & Co., Neustadt/Aisch in Germany 1961

In the 16th century:
[03]:

handwriting


= 25 ½ ₰
= 25.5 pennies
(manuscript from 1572, Reichenbach/Bavaria)

also here the difference between the German Penny Sign
and the normal "d" is the attached tail

on page 95 in the booklet "Unsere Schrift" (Our Script),
published by Degener & Co., Neustadt/Aisch in Germany 1961

In the 19th century:
[04]: the German Penny Sign in the description of the 1880
in New York for Germany produced pointer-typewriter "Hall"
(for Latin script)
for comparison the normal "d":
on the very same machine
[08]:   ! the German Penny Sign in a newspaper advertisement
in German Gothic Script (typical evidence)

in an issue of the "Mindelheimer Zeitung" (Mindelheim News)
from 1896
[10]: the German Penny Sign on the keyboard of the
typewriter "The Chicago" 1898, U.S.A.
(for Latin Script)

(produced for the export to Germany)

In the 20th century:
[11]:
    original photo                             contrast enhanced
the German Penny Sign on the keyboard of the
typewriter "Perko" 1912, Dresden/Germany
(for Latin Script)
[12]:
    original photo                             contrast enhanced
the German Penny Sign on the keyboard of the
typewriter "Triumph" 1918, Nuremberg/Germany
(for Latin Script)
[13]:
    original photo                             contrast enhanced
the German Penny Sign on the keyboard of the
typewriter "Adler" 1922, Frankfurt/Germany
(for Latin Script)
[15]:
    original photo                             contrast enhanced
the German Penny Sign on the keyboard of the
typewriter "Underwood" 1926, U.S.A.
(for Latin Script)

(produced for the export to Germany)
[16]:



  ↑
on the control panel


   bent for adjustment






on the type spindle
(2nd row from above)
the German Penny Sign on the
pointer-typewriter "Mignon" 1930, Berlin/Germany
(for Latin script, capital letters only!)

on the control panel appears the normal shape of the Penny
Symbol, however on the type spindle - side-inverted - a variant
of the Penny Sign with shortened descender can be seen:
the descender of the printed character is shortened,
because this machine was constructed for striking capital letters
without descenders only!

On the type spindle above the Penny Sign you can see the
German Pound Symbol (used only for weight), and below the
"cambered M", the German Mark Symbol at that time.
[19]:

typical evidence

= 10 Stck.75₰
= 10 pieces at 75 pence
 
(in an issue of the periodical "Ratgeber" [=Adviser] from 1954)
the German Penny Sign in an advertisement
for "Spalt"-tablets (aspirin), in Latin script





(this periodical I used much at that time to learn how to read)
[20]:
  printing in 1979
  non-typical evidence
Example with the old resp. round German Penny Sign:
Normally this variant was used only together with Fraktur script,
only seldom together with Latin script.

Vol. II "Zahlschrift und Rechnen" (Numeric Script and
Calculation), page 168, in the book "Zahlwort und Ziffer"
(Numerals and Ciphers), K. Menninger, published by
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1958, 1979 (3rd edition)
 

  The German Penny Sign is a fullsize symbol with descender, not a superscript symbol:  

In school I learned to write the Penny Sign like this:


The proper size and positioning of the German Penny Sign can be seen in sample [19] (above)
and also here in the picture of an old jewelry vending machine (sample [17] in my originally filed application):
See the explanation for the user telling him that he has to insert "2× 10 pence →" -
on the machine you can see a very cursive (italic) variant of the normal German Penny Sign:

in the ad text however the official abbreviation used in those days can be seen: "Rpf." (= Reichspfennig)
(the German Penny Sign itself - without "Reich" - had been used already during 500 years before that time):

 

Erroneous References:
[21]:


  Brockhaus in the year 1972

The German Penny Sign shown is wrong, because
the "d" part is not placed on the baseline. It is positioned too high.
Though in elder printings of the German encyclopedia
"Brockhaus" this symbol was correctly represented, but
in the 1972 edition this symbol was not any more readily
available - so it got inserted photo-mechanically
in handwritten style instead of in the proper printed one.
[22]:


  Brockhaus in the year 1992

The German Penny Sign shown is wrong, because its size
is too small, and it's superscripted instead of in normal position.




NB: Historic facts do not change ex post, but
the precision of the Brockhaus editions is decreasing critically.
In the "Brockhaus" from 1992 (19th edition) the German Penny
Sign is described even in a more misleading way (see left).

Different from the erroneous citation on the left, in running text
like the one shown, the Penny Sign was always used in full size
and grounded with its left part (the ancient "d") on the baseline,
and the tail on the right side formed a descender.

Only if the Penny Sign was positioned directly behind an
emphasized and therefore upsized number as e.g. in a price
tag, it could look like this:
  10.     This is comparable to writing 10$ instead of 10$.
[--]:


  An embarrassing blunder by Microsoft:

  German edition of the Windows accessory program
  "Zeichentabelle (English: "Character Map")
  in Windows 7, Windows 8, and in Windows 10 :

  The character is correct,
  its name mentioned below is not.
  I have no idea how such a fooling can come about ...
It's not a "German Cent Sign", it's the German Penny Sign (in German: Deutsches Pfennigzeichen).
It can't be used for "Cent" or "Eurocent", only for Penny!

The photos of the typewriters and keyboards were taken by me in the German Typewriter Museum in Bayreuth in Bavaria/Germany
with the kind permission of the museum.


DISCLAIMER: All information in this website is given according to my best knowledge, but without guarantee.
This is a non-commercial fan website

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