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I've hit a bit of a stumbling block with the translation of two dates written in Latin. Could anyone please confirm the meanings of the abbreviations in the below image?

I believe they simply are superscript for 1st and 18th, respectively, but was unable to find any supporting documentation for this.

Latin text:

  • Die 1?? mensis Decembris A.D. 1907
  • Die 18?? mensis Octobris A.D. 1907

Thank you for the help!

1 December 1907

18 October 1907

1 Answer 1

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That's a superscript a, indicating that these are ordinal numbers rather than cardinal numbers.

Specifically, it's showing the ending of the word to disambiguate different ways of reading the number. 18 on its own would usually be read duodēvīgintī "eighteen", but with the -a ending marked, it has to mean duodēvīcēnsimā "eighteenth (day)".

In other words, as you correctly surmised, it's the same as writing 18th, to show that you mean "eighteenth" instead of "eighteen". The same convention is used in some modern Romance languages; in Spanish, for example, one could write día 18.ª for día decimoctava.

(For 1a the abbreviation is a bit less obvious, because ūnā "one (day)" would also end in -a. But the convention established from the other numbers, and from the context, is that the superscript ending means it's the ordinal prīmā "first (day)".)

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    Is it an a in the first image though? It looks more like an er to me, as though the writer accidentally used the vernacular abbreviation (of, for example, premier if these records are from a French-speaking region).
    – cnread
    Jul 26, 2022 at 17:50
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    @cnread It could be; I figured an a by comparison to the second image, which has a similar tail and an un-closed top.
    – Draconis
    Jul 26, 2022 at 18:02
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    Thank you, both! My apologies that I wasn't able to provide a higher resolution image, as the photo was taken with a smart phone. @cnread, I believe the letter in the first image is an a, but am not certain. The document was written in Minnesota and from a predominantly Italian-speaking Catholic Church.
    – cwgalli
    Jul 26, 2022 at 19:21
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    @cnread '1er' was my first thought, too, but then the second example would have been '18e', so that didn't work. I also wouldn't have seen the 'a' in the first one except that it has the same pen stroke pattern as the second, which is more clearly (though not perfectly!) an 'a.' (Can't write in superscript in comments, I think.)
    – cmw
    Jul 27, 2022 at 20:54

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