Online Tuition in the Palaeography of Scottish Documents

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In the later medieval and early modern periods in Scotland, clerks sometimes employed a way of writing dates which look distinctly odd to the modern reader. This is the form of dating which, instead of using Arabic numerals (e.g. 23rd June 1632), uses an archaic, corrupt Latin form (e.g. 23rd June JajvjC† and threttie twa yeiris).

They look particularly odd to us because they are a mixture of bad Latin and longhand numbers in Scots. These are sometimes referred to by palaeographers as ‘Jaj dates’. The Jaj part is a corruption of the Latin im, meaning ‘1000’. Originally i m, where i = 1 and m = 1,000, the initial i would be rendered j thus jm. There was a tradition to extend the final minim of the letters n and m. This would leave the initial minims of the m looking like an a hence jaj.

The vj is the Latin numeral for '6', the C† is a contraction of the Latin word centus (‘one hundred’). Hence, Jaj = 1000, vjC† = 600 and threttie twa yeiris = 32: 1632.

In the example below, the date 1663 is rendered: the year of God Jajvj C& saxti three:

the year of God jajvj c& saxti three

More detailed information on dates can be found in the Numbers section of the manual.

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