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NUMBERS

​In Latin records, numbers are written in a variety of ways. Scribes may write out the date numerically, or express it in Arabic numbers or roman numerals. Because Arabic numbers are still used today, they can be fairly easy to read. Similarly shaped numbers such as 1 and 7 or 5 and 9 may still be confused, but a close reading of the document will usually result in the correct understanding of which number has been written. ​

Many times, scribes will choose to write out a number in Latin. When expressing a quantity, scribes would write out the cardinal form of a number. However, when numbers functioned as descriptive ordinals in a sentence, they were declined differently depending if they were the subject (nominative case), direct object (accusative case), or a descriptive clause (accusative case) of a sentence. When expressing a date, numbers are most commonly expressed as ordinal numbers in the ablative case.

The following table shows the Cardinal, Nominative Ordinal, and Ablative Ordinal spellings of numbers in Latin.

​​Cardinal ​ ​Ordinal ​ ​
​Arabic ​Latin ​Arabic ​Latin
Nominative Case
​Latin
Ablative Case
​1 ​unus, una, unum 1st ​primus, prima, primum ​primo
2 ​duo, duae, duo ​2nd ​secundus ​secundo
​3 ​tres, tria 3rd ​tertius ​tertio
4 ​quattuor ​4th ​quartus ​quarto
​5 ​quinque ​5th ​quintus ​quinto
​6 ​sex ​6th ​sextus ​sexto
​7 ​septem ​7th ​septimus ​septimo
8 ​octo ​8th ​octavus ​octavo
9 ​novem ​9th ​nonus ​nono
​10 ​decem ​10th ​decimus ​deimo
​11 ​undecim ​11th ​undecimus ​undecimo
​12 ​duodecim ​12th ​duodecimus ​duodecimo
​13 ​tredecim ​13th ​tertius decimus ​tertio decimo
​14 ​quattuordecim ​14th ​quartus deimus ​quarto decimo
​15 ​quindecim ​15th ​quintus decimus ​quinto decimo
​16 ​sedecim ​16th ​sextus decimus ​sexto decimo
​17 ​septendecim ​17th ​septimus decimus ​septimo decimo
​18 ​duodeviginti ​18th ​duodevicesimus ​duodevicesimo
​19 ​undeviginti ​19th ​undevicesimus ​undevicesimo
​20 ​viginti ​20th ​vicesimus ​vicesimo
​21 ​​viginti unus
unus et viginti
​21st ​vicesimus primus
unus et vicesimus
​vicesimo primo​
​22 ​viginti duo
duo et viginti
​22nd ​vicesimus secundus
secundus/alter et vicesimus
​vicesimo secundo
​23 ​viginti tres
& etc.
​23rd ​vicesimus tertius
&etc.
​vicesimo tertio
​24 ​viginti quattour ​24th ​vicesimus quartus ​vicesimo quarto
​25 ​viginti quinque ​25th ​vicesimus quintus ​vicesimo quinto
​& etc. ​& etc. ​& etc. ​& etc. ​& etc.
​30 ​triginta ​30th ​tricesimus ​tricestimo
​40 ​quadraginta ​40th ​quadragesimus ​quadragesimo
​50 ​quinquaginta ​50th ​quinquagesimus ​quinquagesimo
​60 ​sexaginta ​60th ​sexagesimus ​sexagesimo
​70 ​septuaginta ​70th ​septuagesimus ​septuagesimo
​80 ​octoginta ​80th ​octogesimus ​octogesimo
​90 ​nonaginta ​90th ​nonagesimus ​nonagesimo
​100 ​centum ​100th ​centesimus ​centesimo
​101 ​centum et unus ​101st ​centestimus primus ​centesimo primo
​151 ​centum quinquaginta unus ​151st ​centesimus quinquagesimus primus ​centesimo quinquagesimo primo
​200 ​ducenti, ducentae, ducenta ​200th ​ducentesimus ​ducentesimo
​300 ​trecenti ​300th ​trecentesimus ​trecentesimo
​400 ​quadringenti ​400th ​quadringentesimus ​quadringentesimo
​500 ​quingenti ​500th ​quingentesimus ​quingentesimo
​600 ​sesenti ​600th ​sescentesimus ​sescentesimo
​700 ​septingenti ​700th ​septingentesimus ​septingentesimo
​800 ​octingenti ​800th ​octingentesimus ​octingentesimo
​900 ​nongenti ​900th ​nongentesimus ​nongentesimo
​1000 ​mille ​100th ​millesimus ​millesimo
​1551 ​mille quingenti quinquaginta unus ​1551st ​millesimus quingentesimus quinquagesimus primo ​millesimo quingentesimo quinquagesimo primo

Roman numerals were also written similarly to how they appear today. Small variations do occur, especially when scribes used lower case letters to represent the numerals, as shown in the chart of roman numerals below.

 ​​​​​​Some of the older documents you look at may use the following symbol:

This "U" like character signifes the space between the thousands place and the hundreds place.

 

For example:

or "​1 U DXCI" would be 1591. Before the "U" the scribe may place a "1" instead of an "M" (such as with our 1591 example.)

 

Scribes frequently abbreviated common numeric expressions, such as writing millo or mmo instead of millesimo when recording a date. When faced with what appears to be an abbreviated date, it can be helpful to look at previous entries to see if the scribe wrote out the full word at the beginning of a page, and to check a number list for the full spelling of the name. It may also be useful to consult a dictionary of Latin abbreviations. The most comprehensive is Lexicon Abbreviaturarum by Adriano Cappelli, available online for free at archive.org.
​​​

CALENDARS

​ 

When recording dates in Latin documents, it is important to be aware of the customs of the area where the record is being kept. Latin was a universal language. Calendars varied from countries to countries, with scribes following the Julian, Georgian, or Regnal calendars, depending on the time period and location.

From 45 BC until the late 1500s, most of the Western world followed the Julian calendar. The Julian calendar had a year of 365 days, divided into twelve months. However, the treatment of leap years caused the calendar to shift forward about three days every four centuries, causing it to be replaced by the Georgian calendar in the 1582. During the transition, may scribes recorded the date in both the Julian and Georgian form: the exact year and (often) month, but with a thirteen-day discrepancy. Other scribes quickly adopted the new system, causing a seemingly unexpected thirteen-day gap in their records.

At other times, scribes would judge dates based on the regnal years of their nation's monarch, or base it off major holidays of the Catholic Church. Many online directories list the regnal years of the monarchs of various countries, as well as the modern dates of major holidays throughout time. Such resources can be very helpful in interpreting the written date.

Even when the date follows the typical form of day, month, year, it may be difficult to interpret which month is listed. Scribes frequently abbreviated months, or substituted the stem of the noun for a Roman numeral or Arabic number equivalent.  

Prior to 1752, the first month of the year was March. Accordingly, September was the seventh month, and appears as Septembris, 9bris, or vijbris. Note that I and J were interchangeable until the late 1700s.

Additionally, Latin months declined like all other verbs, resulting in various verb endings. In documents, months usually appeared in the genitive form, precided by "mensis," or "of the month..." The nominative and genitive forms are both shown in the following table.


​Engli​sh ​

​​​Latin  ​

​Nonimative Case ​Genitive Case
Written
​Genitive Case
Roman Numeral
​Genitive Case
Arabic Numbering
​January ​Januarius ​Januarii, Januarij ​xirii ​11ij
​February ​Februarius ​Februarii. Februarij ​xijrii ​12ij
​March ​Martius ​Martii, Martij ​N/A ​N/A
​April ​Aprilis ​Aprilis ​N/A ​N/A
​May​ ​Maius ​Maii, Maij ​N/A N/A
​June ​Junius Junii, Junij ​N/A ​​N/A
​July ​Julius ​​Julii​, Julij N/A ​N/A
​August ​Augustus ​Augusti, Augustij ​vjbris ​6bris
​September ​September ​Septembris ​vijbris ​7bris
​October ​October Octobris ​viijbris ​8bris
​November ​November ​​Novembris ​viiijbris ​9bris
​December ​December ​Decembris ​xbris ​10bris

 

Days of the week are often declined in Latin. Like months, they usually appear in the genitive case, following the word "dies," or "of the day…" The following table includes the nominative, genitive, and ablative declinations of each day of the week.

 


​English​
 ​
​Latin
Nominative Case Genitive Case Ablative Case
​Sunday ​Solus, Dominicus ​Solius, Dominici ​Solo, Dominico
​Monday ​Luna ​Lunae ​Luna
​Tuesday ​Mars ​Martis ​Marte
​Wednesday ​Mercurius ​Mercurii ​Mercurio
​Thursday ​Iuppiter ​Iovis ​Iove
​Friday ​Venus ​Veneris ​Venere
​Saturday ​Saturnus ​​Saturni ​Saturno

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