I'm transcribing a circa 1890 Danish manuscript where the writer uses a symbol for "missing" values in tabular contexts. It is not a ditto mark, and it is not a zero (both of which the writer uses elsewhere), but can be thought of as n/a, nil, or empty — in other words "this space intentionally left blank".

Since it is superficially similar to double commas, I have used these below, but this is obviously incorrect. I think it could be old shorthand or something. I don't know how to typeset such a symbol, or if one even exists. I have looked in the Unicode spec without success.

So, questions:

  • Does this symbol exist formally, or did the writer invent it?

  • If the writer invented it, how do I create one (TikZ, .eps, ...)? Should I even try to replicate an invented symbol, or would it be better to use some standard "empty" indicator (not \empty, but perhaps some other)? If so, which one?






\begin{tabular}{r r r r r}
    Søborg: 15 Gaarde à & 6 Td. & 4 Sk. & \nil{} Fdk. & \nil{} Alb. \\
    foruden Præstegaardens & 10 --- & 5 --- & \nil{} --- & 2 --- \\
    og Kongens Kirkejord & 3 --- & 1 --- & \nil{} --- & \nil{} --- \\



  • 2
    Maybe \usepackage{graphicx} \newcommand\nil{\reflectbox{,,}} is closer to the original?
    – Marijn
    Dec 29, 2019 at 9:54

2 Answers 2


On the beautiful suggestion of the user @Marijn use the command \reflectbox to mirror the request symbol. Obviously you won't have the effect you should since your image refers to an old manuscript. May I suggest to use the Zapfino font package using fontspec pakage and compiling with XeLaTeX or LuaLaTeX. Here there is a MWE with Zapfino font:


Here there is a simple version that you can compile with pdflatex. You to have low quote could to use \usepackage[ngerman]{babel} with the reflect symbol \nglqq instead of the standard low quote \glqq.

enter image description here

    \begin{tabular}{r r r r r}
    Søborg: 15 Gaarde à & 6 Td. & 4 Sk. & \glqq  Fdk. & \nglqq  Alb. \\
        foruden Præstegaardens & 10 --- & 5 --- & \nglqq  --- & 2 --- \\
        og Kongens Kirkejord & 3 --- & 1 --- & \glqq  --- & \glqq --- \\
  • I don't think they're actually commas or quotation marks, though. I think it may be some old shorthand (the manuscript is from ~1890).
    – meide
    Dec 29, 2019 at 17:44
  • 1
    Surely to the 100%. I agree with you because the image is an old manuscript. I have seen differents quotes but not exist of very similar. Peraphs using Zapfino font, probably there is a solution but it is not the same.
    – Sebastiano
    Dec 29, 2019 at 19:47

I found some printed examples:

These two use right-pointing guillemets: »


These earlier examples use double hyphens (not equality sign!): ⹀


I will use the guillemets, since those were in contemporary use when my manuscript was written.

  • 1
    Exist also in LaTeX the symbols \guillemotright or \guillemotleft if you prefer.
    – Sebastiano
    Jan 2, 2020 at 12:59

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