Thursday, May 5, 2016

"Aut" and "Vel"

When I was looking at the famous chapters 39 and 40 of Magna Charta, last year, once I had resolved my confusion of the Latin word "ut" with the early 13th century Norman-English court hand abbreviation of the Latin word "vel" (vl, which looked like "ul"), I noticed a discrepancy that I do not think I pointed out at the time.

Again, it seems unlikely to me that I would be the first person to notice a difference between the known, surviving copies of Magna Charta, so I assume that someone has noticed and pointed it out before.  Also, I can't entirely rule out the possibility that I am somehow mistaken, even once I believe I have considered every possible explanation for what I believe I have found.  However, for any readers who might find it interesting, I have decided nevertheless to post something about it.

The discrepancy is in what has come to be known as chapter 40 of the original, 1215 edition of Magna Charta: "Nulli vendemus, nulli negabimus aut differemus rectum aut iustitiam," meaning approximately "We will never sell, never deny or delay right or justice."  That is how the still legible one of the two Cotton copies and the Lincoln copy read, anyway.  However, I noticed that the Salisbury copy uses "vel" in place of the second "aut".  Subsequent editions of Magna Charta also use "vel" (though I found "aut" in a 1216 edition).  This difference does not affect the meaning of the sentence, and I do not know enough about the subject to draw any other conclusions from it ... so I won't.

Update (July 14, 2017):  I wrote above that I did not believe I had mentioned the discrepancy in 2015, when I first noticed it.  As it turns out, I did point out in 2015 that the Salisbury copy of Magna Charta uses slightly different wording in chapter 40 than the other extant original copies do.

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