Reading the geometrical point.

Although my first few thoughts on the visual representation of the geometrical point have been lost beneath the layered digital strata of more recent posts, I thought that I might examine a single faint fragment of marginal Greek from folio 3r of ljs194, which is a XIIcentury Austrian edition of the Isagoge Geometriae of Gerbert of Aurillac (938-1003). Long before he was elected Pope Sylvester II, Gerbert encountered Arabic mathematical texts during his stay at a Benedictine monastery high in the Pyrenees of Catalonia, on the northern border of Al-Andalus. While at Rheims, Gerbert disseminated this curious geometrical pastiche, principally derived from Boethius; as the thorny transitional Gothic script isn’t that challenging, we can easily read the following passage on the very bottom of the page: Itaque, ut singula iuxta praedictam rationem definiam: punctum est parvissimum [et] indivisibile signum: quod Graece simion dicitur. Just in case, a German edition of Capelli Lexicon Abbreviaturarum is available online at the Universitäts- und Stadtbibliothek Köln.

What I find interesting is the strange Latin transliteration of the Greek word σημειóν as simion; it effectively means nota, or a marginal mark or sign, which involves (I suspect) the etymological derivation of semiotics, perhaps from Porphyry, De Abstinentia 2.49, which filtered into English in the 1670s (I have a two-volume OED at home, but it’s far too heavy to carry about), and was obviously popularized by John Locke. Anyway, a late fifteenth-century humanist annotated this particular manuscript, most noticeably with several outrageously pointy manicules which approach the length of those used by Guillaume Budé, marked this word, and wrote the equivalent in Greek orthography in the bottom corner of the page. On a final note, I apologize for not posting anything for the past week or so: I was otherwise occupied by watching the migration of geese.