The most amazing numbering system that you’ve never heard of.

Cistercian Numerals were created in the thirteenth century (CE) by the Cistercian monastic order. They look a lot like Norse Runes but they are actually a very cleaver numbering system that allows you to store any value between 1 and 9,999 in a single digit.

In essence it uses a repeating pattern based around a central line, the pattern begins to the top and to the right of the line for representing the numbers 1-9 i.e. your units. The tens are then represented as a reflection of that pattern to the left of the central line. Hundreds are again a reflection of the pattern in the bottom right and thousands a reflection in the bottom left. Below are some examples of what this looks like for some larger numbers:

Personally I think they look awesome and, since someone has already created a nice little JavaScript library to generate them, I’m hoping a project comes along at some point where I can insert them as a fun little Easter egg.

Unfortunately there is technically no zero, although you could represent one using just the central line. Representing numbers bigger than 9,999 can be done but it’s not possible with the JavaScript library so you would need to cheat and move into a second column instead if you wanted to do that in browser… either that or modify the library yourself.

For more information the best place to start would be the Wikipedia article. There is also a font that you can use that has been released under the Open Font License (OFL).


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