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Making sense of old handwriting

Numbers


As you go through old records, there will always be a date present. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how numbers and dates work in Catalan.

Numbers

General/Latin-numbers

In Catalan records, there are two main types of numbers used to express figures and dates. The first group of numbers used in these records is the set of Roman numerals. Even though they may show some variations from the ones still used today, they are usually easy to read. The researcher must be aware of the common use of some lower-case letters to represent Roman numerals, for example, iii instead of III.

It is recommended a researcher check other records written by the same scribe to ensure the correct reading of a particular number. The chart of Roman numerals to the right is also helpful while gaining familiarity with the different styles in which they can appear.

Portuguese-Tools-Numbers/Roman-U

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

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

Portuguese-Tools-Numbers/Roman-Numeral-Example

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.)

The second and most relevant types of numbers are Arabic numerals, which are the most widely used today. These are usually easy to read, but some are sometimes confusing because their shape can be similar to other numbers, such as 1 and 7 or 5 and 9. Here are some examples:

General/Tools-Numbers/Number-0
General/Tools-Numbers/Number-1
General/Tools-Numbers/Number-3
General/Tools-Number-4
General/Tools-Number-5
General/Tools-Number-6
General/Tools-Number-7
General/Tools-Number-8
General/Tools-Number-9


When dating documents, most records will use Cardinal Numerals (one, two, three) or Ordinal Numerals (first, second, third).

Below is a basic guide to the different kinds of numbers you may encounter in Catalan records:

Arabic

Roman

Cardinal

Ordinal

1

I

unm/unaf

primer

2

II

dosm/duesf

segon

3

III

tres

tercer

4

IV

quatre

quart

5

V

cinc

cinquèm/cinquenaf

6

VI

sis

sisèm/sienaf

7

VII

set

setè

8

VIII

vuit

vuitè

9

IX

nou

novè

10

X

deu

desè

11

XI

onze

onzè

12

XII

dotze

dotzè

13

XIII

tretze

tretzè

14

XIV

catorze

catorzè

15

XV

quinze

quinzè

16

XVI

setze

setzè

17

XVII

disset

disset

18

XVIII

diviut

divuitè

19

XIX

dinou

dinovè

20

XX

vint

vintè

21

XXI

vint-i-u/un/una

vint-i-unè

22

XXII

vinte-i-dos/dues

vint-i-dosè

23

XXIII

vinte-i-tres

vint-i-tresè

30

XXX

trenta

trentè

31

XXX1

trenta-u/un/una

trenta-unè

32

XXXII

trenta-dos/dues

trenta-dosè

33

XXXIII

trinta-tres

trenta-tresè

40

XXXX

quaranta

quarantè

50

L

cinquanta

cinquantè

60

LX

seixanta

seixantè

70

LXX

setanta

setantè

80

LXXX

vuitanta

vuitantè

90

XC

noranta

norantè

100

C

cent

centè

100

CC

dos-cents

dos-centè

1,000

M

mil

milè


Image Credit:

  • Table: Muñóz y Rivero, D. Jesús, Tabla de Numerales, 1889 in D. Jesús Muñóz y Rivero, Manual de paleografía diplomática española de los siglos xvii al xvii, ed. 2 (Madrid: Imprenta de G. Pedraza, 1889), 103. This image is in the public domain.
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