Inverted characters

special character letter inverted letter entity
sic corr corr

Treatment of characters which are printed upside down in the source

In early printed books, inverted characters (i.e. characters printed upside down) are an important class of characters which may require special treatment. The most frequent cases are n and u, but other characters may also appear in this manner.

Depending on your needs, you may want to be able to represent the original appearance of the text (with the inversion) and/or a corrected version. To retain the greatest amount of flexibility, the best encoding strategy is to use both an entity reference and the sic element, e.g.

<sic corr="a">m&inverteda;n</sic>

Neither the element nor the entity reference by itself is sufficient to capture all of the necessary information for flexible output. The entity reference is necessary in order to represent the character as printed. The sic element is necessary to indicate the corrected reading (which may not in fact be a rightside-up version of the printed character).

This approach may be simplified if less flexibility of output is required. If a corrected reading is unnecessary, then the entity reference alone will suffice. (Using sic without a corr value would signal that the inversion was an error, but this might be unnecessary, since the entity reference could scarcely be a transcriber error!) And if the appearance of the original is unimportant, then corr alone would be economical and would avoid the need for an entity reference:


In some cases it may be difficult to distinguish between, for instance, an n and an inverted u; indeed, they may be visually identical. Adopting a principle of minimal complexity is helpful here: assume that a character is right-side up unless there is clear evidence to the contrary. A great deal of time can be spent trying to decide whether it is more likely that a compositor reached for the wrong piece of type or put it in upside down, but for cases which turn out to be undecidable one needs a consistent approach for reaching a decision and moving on.