I have a book called "A guide to the birds of Trinidad and Tobago" and the author is named as "Richard ffrench" with a small "f". The author's name is spelled the same way by the Library of Congress, with a lower-case letter starting the surname. What is the origin of this strange spelling? I would guess this "ff" is supposed to represent some special letter which is not a normal part of the Roman alphabet.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary's page for F:
In manuscripts a capital F was often written as ff. A misunderstanding of this practice has caused the writing of Ff or ff at the beginning of certain family names, e.g. Ffiennes, Ffoulkes.
(The pilgrimage of the life of man, English by John Lydgate, A. D. 1426 is an example of a manuscript where a lot of words were written this way, such as in "[...] an holsomme Refuge
whan they fflen to the ffor socour [...]".)
I realize it’s been 18 months since this has been asked, but here is your answer:
With attention paid to the paragraph, “In some cases, the name does not start with an initial capital, but with a lower-case f; the double F is derived from the blackletter F. The Irish branch is considered to be one of the "Tribes of Galway", having been there since the 13th century.”