G5.1.  Historical background

The representation of the letter w is not to be confused with the developments of the u/v letterforms.  The w letterform was part of the standard alphabet for Germanic languages.  Most early printing was in Latin, shifting gradually to include a greater proportion of vernacular languages throughout Europe.  W and w must have been scanty in cases of roman type, and they appear to have been frequently exhausted when setting text in Dutch, English, or German.  When that happened, compositors usually did one of two things:  used VV or vv to stand in for W or w, or permanently altered V or v type pieces—achieved by filing or shaving one of the serifs, often the right serif on the left piece—so that the two type pieces would sit closely together in the forme, thereby more closely resembling a w.  In early German texts, printers sometimes used a curved r followed by a v to approximate a w.

G5.2.  Transcription

When VV and vv letterforms have been used to represent the single letter W or w, transcribe them as VV or vv as appropriate.  When there is clear evidence of the filing of one or both pieces of type showing the intention of creating the W or w letterform, transcribe as W or w, making an explanatory note, if considered important.  In cases of doubt, transcribe as VV and vv.  When separate rv letterforms have been used by the printer to approximate the single letter W or w, transcribe as W or w, making an explanatory note, if considered important (see 0G7.2).

LC Rare Book Team Guidelines:  Cataloger's judgement.

See also:

Appendix G.  Early Letterforms and Symbols