Tag Archives: medieval spelling

‘Dupplicatio’ and other things that catch my eye in manuscripts

At this moment, I’m lurking in a hotel room in Oxford. I’m here to visit Oriel College MS 42 again (remember him from before?); I expect that Wednesday will be the last time I see the fellow. Whilst working today, I found, on Folio 136v, col 2, a not uncommon mediaeval spelling that always makes me smile:


It reminded me of some notes I jotted down whilst waiting for microfilms in Paris this summer, notes I’d hoped to turn into a blog post. What follows is based on those, beginning with another doubling of a letter:


What makes dupplicatio so fun is the fact that, well, it’s doing what it means. The ‘p’ is doubled.  How is that not fun? Another duplication I found this summer was not of a single letter but of a whole syllable:

crimiminis instead of criminis

Once I found the entire word eorum repeated — at the end of one line and the beginning of the next!

Sometimes, letters get swapped around, so you can find:

sopita for posita

Spelling in most of the world before things like Johnson’s Dictionary was somewhat variable (and, in fact, long after the Dictionary), based largely on what the word sounds like. This results in scribes writing words differently from how we’re taught they ‘should’ be in Latin class. Commonly, ‘c’ turns into ‘t’ and vice versa. So:

  • prouintia for prouincia
  • justicia for justitia
  • juditium for judicium
  • sollicicia for sollicitia

Other non-standard spellings I found in Paris included scribtura for scriptura, aeclessiastica for ecclesiastica, and praesbyterali for presbyterali. The shifting between ‘ae’ and ‘e’ is also a fairly common trait. The ‘b’ for ‘p’ is less common, and I’m sure those more versed in these things can tell us how such a variant can help determine a manuscript’s place and time of origin.

Every, single manuscript in existence is perfectly unique — not just for the artistic value and craftsmanship, but for details like the above that would not matter whether it was written in Caroline minuscule or Insular script, on papyrus, calf-skin, or goat, with or without illumination. Manuscripts are a barrel of fun!