Different form of lowercase Greek beta in French tradition when not at the beginning of the word
I was quite surprised to discover this arcane, and, oh, so French practice which I consider so much non-standard in the electronic texts world.
I wonder, how this "idiosyncrasy" started. I thought of the Brits being peculiar, i.e. driving on the wrong side of the road, but the French are doing their best to match them up.Le grec étant une écriture bicamérale, le bêta possède une forme majuscule, Β, et une forme minuscule, β.
Dans certaines compositions, tout spécialement dans la tradition française, il existe une variante typographique de la lettre minuscule sans jambage lorsqu'elle est utilisée à l'intérieur d'un mot : ϐ. βίβλος est alors imprimé βίϐλος.
La police Asea est très belle aussi, et très lisible, mais elle inverse β et ϐ !
Grec ancien - Bailly
Following a discussion with Chaeréphon
I was pointed to this:The beta without descender: ϐ. Sometimes the following rule is applied: β is used at the beginning of words, and ϐ otherwise, as in the words βλάϐη, βιϐλίο, βάρϐαρος. This rule seems to be geographically very restricted: the author has seen it applied in Greek books of the late 19th and early 20th century (Α, Κ and κ∆); it seems to be applied, rigorously and continuously until today, only in France: [Bai, p. 145], [Imp, p. 95], [Ver, p. 1], [Rag, p. 2], all mention it and apply it; the monumental [Ste] applies it strictly ; all Bude´ and Le Cerf editions of classical Greek texts apply it as well. On the other hand, this rule is unknown in the rest of the world: neither [Oik] (Greece), nor [Ka¨g], [Fri], [Wen] (Germany), or [Lid], [Chi], [Bet] (England/US), or [Bol], [Sov] (Russia), or [Nak] (Japan) mention it.
The form of β can be easily determined by an algorithm and hence this property is purely contextual (like Arabic contextual forms, and not like the σ/v case where there can eventually be a semantic layer). The variant beta U+03d0 is called “Greek beta symbol” in Unicode, which implies that this character is intended for mathematics; nevertheless the author can hardly imagine this character used in mathematics since it would be hard to distinguish from a (more or less cursive) Latin b.
From Unicode to Typography, a Case Study: the Greek Script (Yannis Haralambous)
It seems that even the French wiktionary "honours" this tradition by adding variant spellings:https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/%CE%B2%CE%AC%CF%81%CF%90%CE%B1%CF%81%CE%BF%CF%82https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/%CE%B2%CE%AC%CF%81%CE%B2%CE%B1%CF%81%CE%BF%CF%82