Two invaluable online resources that have been lifesavers for me as I’ve started to work with unedited manuscripts:
A. Cappelli’s Dizionario de Abbreviature – The indispensable and definitive guide to Latin abbreviations, this online version of the Italian edition is much more comprehensive than the later English edition.
Some academic libraries (including the Bodleian) also have subscriptions to Abbreviationes Online, which allows you to search a growing database for any medieval Latin abbreviation.
Enigma – In what I can only imagine was the result of an inspired friendship between a medievalist and a computer programmer, this brilliant tool allows you to enter as much of the word as you can make out, together with a host of wildcard options, and then provides you with a list of every possible option, courtesy of Whitaker’s Words. Particularly cleverly, it allows each minim (the identical vertical strokes found in ‘i’, ‘u’, ‘m’, and ‘n’) to be entered as a ‘!’, so for example, ‘!!!!!!!ere’ spits out only three possible options (innuere, munere, numere) which you can then narrow down based on context.
I found approaching canon law for the first time for historical research more than a little tricky, so I thought I would distill some of the most helpful ‘starter’ information I found on the way for anyone else embarking on it. (For more detail on what I was actually looking for, see my earlier post.)
Continue reading Using Canon Law
Gallica is the digital library of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF) and is one of the best freely accessible digital archives online, crammed full of brilliant historical sources. It’s fairly easy to navigate, and you can register to save documents and books to your digital workspace.
I’ve personally been using it a lot lately to access all the 19th-century editions of my medieval primary sources from the comfort of my bed, instead of having to trot all the way out to the Bodleian Upper Reading Room!
Word Tools: Thanks to the wonders of the internet, there are now various Latin word tools that will tell you not only what any Latin word means, but also that it happens to be a genitive singular future passive participle, or whatever the ‘case’ may be.
Whitaker’s Words – My personal favourite, partly because it does take into account some medieval spelling and vocabulary changes)
Perseus Latin Word Study Tool
Health Advisory: While brilliant for making your way through a tricky translation, I would recommend using online word tools sparingly when it comes to actual Latin study – it’s easy to get dependent and forget to actually learn the vocabulary and grammar yourself, which comes back to haunt you later . . .
Dictionaries: Most Latin-English dictionaries only reflect classical usage and vocabulary. The best dictionary for medieval Latin is the recently completed Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources (DMLBS) published by Oxford University Press, which is also available as a subscription service online and through the Latin/Greek online dictionary search Logeion.
National Archives Resources for Medieval Latin & Paleography
Two levels of Latin tutorials (not as helpful for the grammar, but really good for medieval Latin vocabulary from common types of medieval documents), some paleography tutorials, and a couple other goodies.