Online Tuition in the Palaeography of Scottish Documents

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Is it a number or a sum of money?

The word may not be a word at all, but a number, sum of money or amount of agricultural produce written in Roman numerals, e.g. Cxiv = 114.

Roman numerals
The digits 1-10 in Roman numerals are: i, ii, iii, iv, v, vi, vii, viii, ix, x. However, in Scots documents in the period 1500-1750 you are likely to come up against some variations.

Firstly, the last i digit in any series of is will invariably be rendered a j, e.g.: ij = 2, vj = 6, xiij = 13.

Secondly, numbers like 4 (iv) and 9 (ix) are just as likely to be rendered iiij and viiij. So: xiiij = 14, and viiij = 9.

Other Roman numerals frequently used are: L (= 50) and C (= 100). But note that a contraction mark was often written after the C ( e.g. C/ ) to represent the Latin word Centus.

Also, look out for the use of a superscript XX to represent a 'score' (20), particularly in combination with other Roman numerals, e.g.: C/ iij xx iiij = 164 (i.e. C/ = 100, iijxx = 'three score' = 60, and iiij = 4).

Sums of money
Scotland had its own currency prior to the Act of Union in 1707: the pound Scots. From the fourteenth century until the end of the sixteenth century debasement of the coinage resulted in the divergence of the Scottish and English currencies. After the Act of Union rents, wages and the value of agricultural produce continued to be stated in Scots money in some cases.

Sums of money usually appear as abbreviations for pounds, shillings and pence. These abbreviations are normally written superscript (that is, above the other writing in that line of text) in the form:

    lb or li (with a stroke through it) signifying the Latin word libra (meaning 'pounds');
    s (or double-s) signifying the Latin word solidus (meaning 'shilling')
    d signifying the Latin word denarius (meaning 'penny').

The example below transcribed reads Lxvij li vj s viij d: that is, '67 pounds, 6 shillings and 8 pence'.

Sum of money in Latin numerals

Sometimes the abbreviation for shillings will be the letters s and h ligatured, or the symbol for sis, which looks like the scharfes s, as in the example below: 13 s[hilling]is. 4d.

Remember that a good way to spot numerals is when the last i is rendered as a j, for example iij = 3.

For more detailed information on numbers go to the Numbers section of the manual.

If this hasn’t solved the problem try another option:

Phonetic Spelling
Scots, Legal and Latin words

Return to the Problem Words page.