For almost twenty years I’ve been reading during Shabbats and holidays, and I never came across the “looped letters”, until I had the chance to look at a Torah book that was brought to Israel from Romania or Hungary, where I found examples to this graphic tradition.
The “looped letters” are Ketav Stam letters that were passed on by one writer to the other in a strange and unusual tradition. As years went by the tradition was forgotten, and so it is very rare to find a Torah book written using “looped letters”.
This magnificent tradition is mentioned in Sefer HaTemunah, and even HaRambam mentioned it in his Hilchot Tefillin and Mezuzahand book of Torah:
“He shall shine in the large letters and in the small letters, and in the punctuated letters and in the letters that are strange in form as the looped Peyen (the “Pe” letters) and the crooked letters as the writers copied from one another…”
Interesting enough, traces of this tradition could be found in some Yemeni communities on the one hand, and in European and Ukrainian communities on the other. Ephraim Sofer of Brody, for example, who was the writer of Haba’al Shem Tov, followed this tradition as could be seen in the Torah books written by him.
This tradition was also documented in Tagi book (published in Paris during the 18th century), as well as in the book of Rabbi Menachem Kasher, “Torah Sheleimah”, that documented around one hundred and fifty strange (“looped”) letter drawings and their location in the Torah.