Ælfred versus Alfred
You may have seen this strange squished-together “ae” before, on the spine of a dusty old Encyclopædia on grandfather’s book shelf. This ligature is the Anglo-Saxon letter ash, and though it is rarely used these days, I find it quite beautiful. Ash is the fourth letter of the elder futhark, and the twenty-sixth letter of the Anglo-Saxon futhark, or runic alphabet, and is drawn like the modern capital letter F with the two arms angled downwards.
The world tree, Yggdrasil, is an ash, the great tree from which Woden (Odin) hung for nine days and received the gift of writing.
I wish to reclaim this beautiful letter, and so use it for both Ælfwyn and Ælfred. I hope your eye soon becomes accustomed to it, and learns to welcome it as much as I do. There are two other letters that you will find in Old English and Old Norse (and modern Icelandic, still so similar to Old Norse): The letter Thorn: Þ (uppercase) and þ (lowercase); and Eth: Ð (uppercase) and ð (lowercase). Þ is sounded like “th” in the, and Eth as “th” in thing.
Thorn and Eth