[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on t he PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.


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Latin, Palaeography, and Latin Palaeography
Part Two

Last time, we looked the first line of this entry, plus one word, and came up with 'Elizabeth Dei gracia Anglie + Francie et Hibernie Regina.' Or, Elizabeth, by Grace of God, Queen of England, France, and Ireland.'

( Click on the image for a larger version in a new window.)
I skipped over the banner above the head of the historiated initial E. The image is clearly intended to be Elizabeth herself, and above her head is printed 'VIVAT REGINA' in a fairly straightforward monumental script. The format of the script was driven by its traditional use in monuments - that is to say, carved in stone. For that purpose, straight lines are much easier to do than curves. Those Latin words with v's for u's come from that tradition. A v is a simple; two straight lines at an angle and move on. The picture is intended to evoke Elizabeth beneath a stone roof of some sort, and so the 'stone-carved' script is appropriate.

Regina is the word for queen. Vivat is from the verb vivo, -ere, meaning to live. Latin verbs are often given in this form. The first part is the first person singular of the verb, and the second is the infinitive. From this information, you can usually tell which of the four conjugations the verb belongs to. (There are, of course, irregular verbs.) Vivo, vivere is a 2nd conjugation verb. Vivo means, 'I live.' Vivat is third person singular, and is in what is called the subjunctive mood. We'll talk more about that later. One of the uses of the subjunctive is called the jussive (or iussive, Latin makes no distinction between i and j.) The jussive subjunctive functions like a command and is often translated in English as 'Let it' or something similar. 'Fiat lux' is a good example from the Bible. Fiat is the jussive subjective of the verb meaning 'make, happen, become' and similar. Lux is the nominative of light. So 'fiat lux' may be more familiar to English speakers as 'Let there be light.' In the same way, 'vivat regina' would be translated as 'Let the queen live.' Or, with a little poetic license, 'Long live the queen.'

Moving on ...

After 'Regina' we have 'fidei defensor.' Defensor translates as 'defender,' and that same usage persists in a lot of English words - senator, actor, and so on. 'Fidei' is the genitive of 'fides,' meaning faith. 'Fidei defensor' is 'defender of the faith.'

We've talked about cases, so let's be a bit more specific. Nouns have five possible declensions, called straightforwardly enough 1st through 5th declension nouns. The genitive singular ending indicates which declension it belongs to. Each noun has five (or six) cases in the singular and the same in the plural. Those cases are: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and ablative. In a general way, nominative case is the subject of a sentence, genitive is possessive, accusative is the object of the action, dative is in the indirect object, and ablative does a lot of things - such as the ablative of means we talked about previously.

Regina is a first declension noun, so the declension looks like this:
singularplural
nominativereginareginae
genitivereginaereginarum
dativereginaereginis
accusativereginamreginas
ablativereginareginis
The same ending is sometimes used for different cases, and then context becomes important to determine the meaning.

Looking closely at 'regina' and 'fidei,' you can see that the scribe has very faintly dotted the i's. The dots are little crescent shapes, faint, and off to the right of the i. The n's are, as we would expect, simply two minims - single down strokes - and the i is one minim, which is why regina looks a little like 'regma.' There's a 2-shaped r at the end of defensor, following the round letter o. Just below, in 'gerentes,' is a second type of r. 2-shaped r's usually only follow round letters like o, so the upright r is exactly what we would expect.

Moving along, we find ourselves faced with an awkward little word. The first letter looks like a 2-shaped r, and the second is a little strange as well - is it a c, an e,or what? Looking back, it doesn't look like the e's in the previous words. And that first letter ...

That first letter is probably not a letter at all, but the same Tironian note we had before. The second letter is a c, with a little tail by way of abbreviation. The abbreviation is 'cetera' so we have et cetera. A little research shows that Elizabeth I often styled herself that way. Making a note of the shape of that Tironian note, since it will probably show up again, we move on.

The next word is in a Gothic script, suggesting a new clause. Familiarity with formulae, or with Gothic MSS, makes the next word fairly obvious. The initial 'O' is bit eccentric, but the string of six minims, sadly with no helpful dotting of the i, is m-n-i, and the rest falls into place making the word 'omnibus.' 'Omnis' is a third declension noun, meaning 'all the people', and 'omnibus' is plural dative or ablative. From context, it is dative - 'to all the people' or 'to all persons.' This is a fairly standard formula in these sorts of documents - first, the originator says who they are, then in the next clause, they state to whom the document is addressed. 'All persons ...' but wait! there's more!

The shift is back to the less-prestigious and faster script. The next two words are 'ad quos,' and the terminal s is worth noting, since it is the common letter form in many words. But not the only one. The next word is 'presentes.' The p is straightforward, the e's we've seen before, the t is clear with the cross bar at x height and the ascender above it, that terminal s is one we've just noted. That leaves us with two minims which could be n, u, or ii. The lack of dotting, means not ii. N just fits, especially once you get familiar with the formula or as your Latin vocabulary expands. The medial s is a tall s, which again is what one would expect. One could put a round s in the middle, or a tall s at the end, but neither is what I think of as standard.

Moving more quickly now, 'litere ...' that's easy, but what's the last squiggle? Is it anything at all? There's a hint in that 'presentes' ends in 's' and is the adjective 'present' or 'now at hand.' Adjectives must agree with the noun they modify, and presentes is nominative or accusative plural. Which means that litere(?) should also be plural. The formulae again come to our aid. A search on 'presentes litere' gives many hits, suggesting that 'litere' is correct by itself. This is another case of late Latin changing ae to a single e, as is the case with Anglie, that we discussed last time.

The next two words are pretty easy to read, with letterforms we've mostly seen already, and a helpful dot over the i in the next word, 'pervenerint.' Admittedly, the v and the n could go either way, 'perneverint' sounds like it could be a word. And, it is, sort of. It would mean something like 'weave completely' since per- can add force to a verb, and neo,-ere is the verb to spin or weave. I didn't know that until just now, by the way. Pervenerint is much more common. Then there is 'salutem.' The only thing worth mentioning there is the difference between the l and the tall s, such as in presentes. The tall s drops below the line, and the l is deliberately on the line, and has the slight rightward finish at the bottom.

The next word is Gothic again, so purely visually we can guess that this clause has finished. Let us review it completely, therefore. Omnibus ad quos presentes litere pervenerint salutem. Omnibus is 'to all.' Ad quos is the preposition 'ad,' to or towards, and 'quos' - whom. Literae is the plural of letters as in letters of the alphabet, but often means letters as in correspondence. Pervenerint is the subjunctive of pervenio,-ire, which means 'come to.' Subjunctive, as we discussed briefly last time, is the mood of hypothetical situations. So taken together, this is the commonly seen formulae 'To all to whom these present letters come' (or 'may come'). Many SCA scrolls have variations on this wording.

Finally, 'salutem,' the first person subjunctive, of saluto,-are. The verb that gives us the English salute, salutation, and so forth. 'I greet you,' or 'I salute you.' It's hypothetical, I believe, since the arrival of the letters were hypothetical, so the greeting must also be. In English, we often just see this rendered as 'Greetings,' as it is more colloquial.

On a side note. The usual greeting to people, in person or in a letter, was the imperative, the command, 'salve,' or the plural 'salvete,' meaning literally 'be well', but used generally as 'hello.' 'Goodbye' was the imperative 'vale' or 'valete' meaning much the same, actually - be well, be healthy. In these difficult times, I've adopted that habit in my correspondence.

Valete, amici et amicae


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Luddite'sLog, 5 April 2020
© 2020 Jeff Berry
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