An example of blackboard bold letters.
Blackboard bold is a style of typeface often used for certain symbols in mathematical texts, in which certain lines of the symbol (usually vertical, or nearvertical lines) are doubled. The symbols usually describe sets of numbers and are also referred to as double struck, although attempting to produce them by double striking on a typewriter is unlikely to give satisfactory results. It is frequently claimed that the symbols were first introduced by the group of mathematicians known as Nicolas Bourbaki. There are several reasons to doubt this claim: (1) the symbols do not not appear in Bourbaki publications (rather, ordinary bold is used) at or near the era when they began to be used elsewhere, for instance, in typewritten lecture notes from Princeton University (achieved in some cases by overstriking R or C with I), and (an apparent first) typeset in Gunning and Rossi's textbook on several complex variables; (2) JeanPierre Serre, a member of the Bourbaki group, has publically inveighed against the use of "blackboard bold" anywhere other than on a blackboard.
In some texts, these symbols are simply shown in bold, and blackboard bold in fact originated from the attempt to write bold letters on blackboards in a way that clearly differentiated them from nonbold letters. Wikipedia, too, uses ordinary bold in place of blackboard bold, as browser support for the latter is far from universal.
TeX, the standard typesetting system for mathematical texts, does not contain direct support for blackboard bold symbols, but the addon AMS Fonts package by the American Mathematical Society provides this facility; a blackboard bold R is written as \Bbb{R}
in regular text and as \mathbb{R}
in math mode.
In Unicode, a few of the more common blackboard bold characters (C, H, N, P, Q, R and Z) are encoded in the Basic Multilingual Plane (BMP). The rest, however, are encoded outside the BMP, from U+1D538
to U+1D550
(uppercase, excluding those encoded in the BMP), U+1D552
to U+1D56B
(lowercase) and U+1D7D8
to U+1D7E1
(digits). Being outside the BMP, these are very new and not widely supported.
The following table shows some of the more common uses of blackboard bold. The first column shows the letter as rendered by Wikipedia's LaTeX markup system. The second column shows the Unicode codepoint. The third column shows the symbol itself (which will only display correctly if your browser supports Unicode and has access to a suitable font). The fourth column describes typical usage in mathematical texts.
LaTeX 
Unicode 
Symbol 
Usage 

U+1D538 
𝔸 
Represents affine space or the ring of adeles. Sometimes represents the algebraic numbers, the algebraic closure of Q (although a Q with an overline is often used instead).


U+1D539 
𝔹 
Represents a ball.


U+2102 
ℂ 
Represents the complex numbers.


U+1D53B 
𝔻 
Represents the unit disk in the complex plane.


U+1D53C 
𝔼 
Represents the Expected value of a random variable.


U+1D53D 
𝔽 
Represents a field. Often used for finite fields, with a subscript to indicate the order. Also represents a Hirzebruch surface .


U+1D53E 
𝔾 
Represents a Grassmannian.


U+210D 
ℍ 
Represents the quaternions (the H stands for Hamilton), or the upper half plane.


U+1D541 
𝕁 
Sometimes represents the irrational numbers, R\Q.


U+1D542 
𝕂 
Represents a field. This is derived from the German word Körper, which is German mathematical jargon for field (actually 'body').


U+2115 
ℕ 
Represents the natural numbers. May or may not include zero.


U+1D546 
𝕆 
Represents the octonions.


U+2119 
ℙ 
Represents projective space, the probability of an event, the prime numbers, or a power set.


U+211A 
ℚ 
Represents the rational numbers. (The Q stands for quotient.)


U+211D 
ℝ 
Represents the real numbers.


U+1D54A 
𝕊 
Represents the sedenions, or a sphere.


U+1D54B 
𝕋 
Represents a torus.


U+2124 
ℤ 
Represents the integers. (The Z is for Zahlen, which is German for "numbers".)

Note that P ⊆ N ⊆ Z ⊆ Q ⊆ R ⊆ C ⊆ H ⊆ O ⊆ S.
See also
External links
 http://www.w3.org/TR/MathML2/doublestruck.html shows blackboard bold symbols together with their Unicode encodings. Encodings in the BMP are highlighted in yellow.
Last updated: 09122005 02:39:13