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View Full Version : If an old book is written in Latin, how old would it be?



underthecity
10-09-2009, 04:27 PM
In my story, my MC is given a book published in the 1890s and written in Latin. To tell you the truth, I don't know when they stopped writing books in Latin, so this may be a pretty big stretch.

The book (in the story) is kind of a manual on how to use electricity to contact the dead, raise spirits, that sort of thing. I thought having the book written in Latin gave it an old-world, European feel to it. But then I found out in another thread that apparently there is no Latin word for electricity. I could make the book German, but haven't decided.

scarletpeaches
10-09-2009, 04:31 PM
There might not be a Latin word for electricity but you could make one up. Translate a fire-related word, adapt it, change it in some way. Whatever the word for 'energy' is?

Parametric
10-09-2009, 04:44 PM
It seems pretty unlikely that a book published 1890 would be written in Latin. Latin's a dead language, and it died long before electricity. German is a better choice, imo. And they do have a word for electricity: Elektrizitat (with an umlaut on the a), I believe.

PeterL
10-09-2009, 05:04 PM
An esoteric work like that might still be written in Latin. Generally, Latin was dropped for publication in the 1600's, but any educated person woould have been literate in Latin.

I recently read a discussion of the lack of a word for electricity in Latin. You could Latinize the word, since it was in use from the 1700's, or you could use the Latin word for lightning.

Medievalist
10-09-2009, 07:09 PM
It's quite likely for a printed copy of a medieval manuscript to be in Latin. We do this all the time today.

The Vatican still publishes and writes all its basic communications for use within the Church in Latin.

One of my dissertation chairs still emails me in Latin.

And the Vatican has a modern Latin word list with things like computer and televison and electricity etc. -- it used to be on their site. You might try Googling.

dirtsider
10-09-2009, 07:47 PM
It's quite likely for a printed copy of a medieval manuscript to be in Latin. We do this all the time today.

The Vatican still publishes and writes all it's basic communications for use within the Church in Latin.

One of my dissertation chairs still emails me in Latin.

And the Vatican has a modern Latin word list with things like computer and televison and electricity etc. -- it used to be on their site. You might try Googling.

Thanks. This is just sort of information I needed for my WIP.

Mike Martyn
10-09-2009, 09:07 PM
I'm sure the Church keeps up to date. I recall as a little boy learning Latin and the priest who taught us was quite excited by the fact that the Pope was flying around in a "helicopterum".

The church may have kept up to date. Not so the clerics. I remember one sermon from the Arch bishop in which he noted that electricity required two wires to flow. This showed the beneficience of God in that birds did not get electrocuted while sitting on wires. I almost fell off of the choir loft.

Yes, in 1890, most educated Europeans would have had a working knowledge of Latin. My Scottish grandfather did. The Scots learned it though perhaps not the barbarous English.

underthecity
10-09-2009, 09:49 PM
There might not be a Latin word for electricity but you could make one up. Translate a fire-related word, adapt it, change it in some way. Whatever the word for 'energy' is?


I recently read a discussion of the lack of a word for electricity in Latin. You could Latinize the word, since it was in use from the 1700's, or you could use the Latin word for lightning.
It's a possibility, as long as I can "get away with it." From the other thread, posted by georgeK:

I think my translation is right for Classical Latin and probably his is correct for Medieval Latin. Languages evolve and over a difference of a thousand years Latin evolved too. So how old is your witch or her source? If she's one millennium then "electricitate", and if two millennia then "electrica".
The other possibility is that the on line source "made up" electricitate, as a Latinized phonetic version of "electricity" after having assumed that the Romans would not have had a word for it, but in fact they did.



An esoteric work like that might still be written in Latin. Generally, Latin was dropped for publication in the 1600's, but any educated person would have been literate in Latin. This was my reasoning when I decided the book would be written in Latin. But I've never been real sure.



It's quite likely for a printed copy of a medieval manuscript to be in Latin. We do this all the time today.

The Vatican still publishes and writes all it's basic communications for use within the Church in Latin.

One of my dissertation chairs still emails me in Latin.

And the Vatican has a modern Latin word list with things like computer and televison and electricity etc. -- it used to be on their site. You might try Googling. Good to know. If "electricitate" works I might use it.

PeterL
10-09-2009, 10:07 PM
It's a possibility, as long as I can "get away with it." From the other thread, posted by georgeK:

Good to know. If "electricitate" works I might use it.

If you can find the dictionary that the Vatican uses, then that would have a good word,but it might be "electricitate".

You could also use a word of your choosing; You are writing a wook of fiction, and I get the impression that a strange person will be doing some strange things, so you could be strange.

Medievalist
10-09-2009, 10:22 PM
Here you go; the Official Vocab per the Vatican (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/institutions_connected/latinitas/documents/rc_latinitas_20040601_lexicon_it.html#e).

It's a word list; Italian and English, I'm afraid.

eléctrica vis

Is the winner.

PeterL
10-09-2009, 11:20 PM
Neat.

GeorgeK
10-11-2009, 02:27 PM
The other thing to remember, Underthecity, is that vanity publishing and private small prints of books are not new. Any place that made books will do it and have done it for the right price. You could have a book printed almost as far back as Gutenburg in any language you want, including an alien language if there's a reason for the purchaser of the books to have a reason to have a copy of it.

underthecity
10-11-2009, 04:51 PM
The other thing to remember, Underthecity, is that vanity publishing and private small prints of books are not new. Any place that made books will do it and have done it for the right price.Something as strangely esoteric as the title I'm suggesting in the original post (To Bring Out the Dead) could have been privately published. In fact, it's quite possible that the book (in my story) is the only copy in existance. Then that author would have had the freedom to write it in any language he wished.

Medievalist
10-11-2009, 07:01 PM
Why have the book printed? Most actual grimoires are written in hand; part of the inherent magic is in creating the object yourself. Heck, Carl Jung created is Red Book by hand, even illuminating it himself.

The use of bound "blank books" is just as old as the practice of using codex or book-like manuscripts instead of scrolls.

Canotila
10-12-2009, 12:38 PM
For what it's worth, Winnie Ille Pu, Cattus Petasatus, and Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis are all sitting on my shelf, all in Latin, two of them printed in the last 5 years.

Going further back, I also have Ars Dicendi (1914) Tacitus' Germania and Agricola (1848)

My Latin teacher was telling us how it works translating words from english that don't have a latin counterpart into latin. She gave an example of a steam train engine. The literal english translation was something like "a wagon made of iron that moves by means of boiling water", and it was ridiculously long. I can't remember the latin words used and how all the declensions etc. worked out. It might be somewhere in my old notes.

Right now my english copy of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone is missing, so if some ambitious soul cares to look and see if the word "electricity" is used in the first book, and can give me the chapter/paragraph number I can cross reference and see how the translator handled it.

underthecity
10-12-2009, 04:52 PM
eléctrica vis

Is the winner.
Referencing the Latin line from the other thread, then, the sentence would read: arcessens umbra electrica vis. Which should be Latin for "Summoning a ghost by means of electricity." Does that work?


Why have the book printed? Most actual grimoires are written in hand; part of the inherent magic is in creating the object yourself.

That's an excellent suggestion. I'm now making it a one-of-a-kind, hand-written book.

GeorgeK
10-12-2009, 06:23 PM
Why have the book printed?.
Perhaps it was written by one of my old Latin teachers. Not even he could read his own writing. If you asked him to explain the marks in the margin that looked like a flock of inch tall chickens had run across the page through red ink, he'd have to reread your paper to remind himself of what he'd been thinking when he'd made the scribbles.

Medievalist
10-12-2009, 06:56 PM
Perhaps it was written by one of my old Latin teachers. Not even he could read his own writing. If you asked him to explain the marks in the margin that looked like a flock of inch tall chickens had run across the page through red ink, he'd have to reread your paper to remind himself of what he'd been thinking when he'd made the scribbles.

In all seriousness, this description works for actual "magic" texts from the middle ages and renaissance; the writers wanted to keep the information "private."

StephanieFox
10-12-2009, 09:58 PM
I stumbled upon an old Catholic Church book or rituals called Rituale Romanum, copyright 1911, all in Church Latin of the rituals for priests to perform, including the main ritual exorcism. It was just laying around as staging in a little corner of a very modern looking Catholic Church. You could probably borrow one from a church, maybe photocopy a page or two to get an idea of how it flows for your book. I've seen these for sale on line, but they are expensive.

I think they are still printing some, so a ;book in Latin; might be current.

Church Latin isn't exactly the same as literate Latin, but it might be OK for your uses.

Medievalist
10-12-2009, 10:37 PM
Y'all might wanna take a look at a magical text created in the late Renaissance:

http://books.google.com/books?id=pXvRNI1S55EC&dq=yale+magic+manuscript&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Or the Yale Voynich Ms.-- I'm convinced it's a genuine Renaissance ms. but that the makers (John Dee has my vote) were attempting to create a fake magical text.

Google the Voynich Manuscript. Lots of weird stuff about it.

Dicentra P
10-12-2009, 11:55 PM
My dad had an early 20th century set of encyclopedias and while it was in English there were portions of the articles in both latin and greek.

Rufus Coppertop
10-13-2009, 06:03 AM
It seems pretty unlikely that a book published 1890 would be written in Latin. Latin's a dead language, and it died long before electricity. German is a better choice, imo. And they do have a word for electricity: Elektrizitat (with an umlaut on the a), I believe.

Latin is alive and well, just not as widely spoken or used as it deserves.

You can get a critical edition of Cornelius Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, which was published in 1992. Also, a critical edition of the Picatrix published by the Warburg Institute in 1984 and Liber Iuratus Honorii (Sworn Book of Honorius) published by Stockholm University in 2002.

If you want a Latin Bible, go to Amazon.com and type in Biblia Sacra Vulgata. If you want a Clementine edition, go to Abebooks.com and add Colunga Turrado as a keyword.

All of the works of Caesar, Cicero and shitloads of others are available from Oxford University Press including a glorious edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses with a critical apparatus showing divergences in different manuscripts.

Rufus Coppertop
10-13-2009, 06:34 AM
But then I found out in another thread that apparently there is no Latin word for electricity. I could make the book German, but haven't decided.

If you want to leave electricity out of the title, you might call it,

de machina mirabile ad daemones evocandos

concerning the wonderful machine to summon spirits.

I'll check with my lecturer tomorrow, just to make sure that I'm not abusing the gerundive of purpose construction - I'm pretty sure this is perfectly good Latin though.

benbradley
10-13-2009, 07:41 AM
And of course some such books are available online:

http://www.speedbible.com/vulgate/

I can read much of the first few verses of Genesis from my one year of Latin decades ago, and guess at the remaining words from knowing those verses in English.