The Composition of Codex A in the archives of San Nicola in Termini Imerese

Codex A is composed of a complete set of Baptismal records written in Medieval Latin on paper, specifically for the Sacrament as administered during the fiscal years 1542-1548. The actual dates within these fiscal years range from May 1, 1542 through April 30, 1548. There are two additional entries at the very end of the manuscript: one within fiscal year No. 9 [designated fiscal viij] for June 18, 1550, and another within fiscal year No. 10 [designated fiscal jxº] for July 18, 1551. The handwriting throughout the MS belies the fact that several notaries were employed to make the entries. The pages, 124 in all, are numbered in the upper left-hand corner, but only on the recto surface.

Quill pens were used to deliver the ink to the pages. Unfortunately, there are a fairly large number of misspellings in the manuscript. This situation, combined with inconsistency in the spelling of the contractions used to notate Medieval Latin, can at times, make for considerable problems in translation.

The records are preceded by an index in Italian, laid out alphabetically by saints for whom the baptized persons are named. A page number, designating the location of the specific Baptismal record, follows each name. This index, composed some time after the records were entered, contains a great number of variants and discrepancies, insofar as the spelling of the names in Tuscan Italian is concerned; furthermore one finds a number of deletions and obvious errors in it. Nevertheless, the index is invaluable on occasion for settling the transcription or translation of certain names.


Discrepancies between the spellings on page 1 of the Index (left-hand column) and those in the actual baptismal entries within Codex A.

Page 25 has fallen out of the manuscript and has been lost. It has been partially reconstructed by using the 12 names for this page which are found in Baptismal Index.

Medieval Latin is expressed primarily in contractions. Matters of this nature often become quite bizarre in Codex A because each notary had his own personal versions of the contractions to be used for the Sicilian language. A case in point is Sister Filippa L’Angelica’s name which occurs dozens of times in Codex A. All notaries settled on ph¯a as  the abbreviation of her given name. But insofar as Sister’s surname is concerned, there was no consensus as to how it was to be expressed:



Jnchic¯  ca






lo a¯gelica

The handwriting in Codex A is minuscule. One wonders if nearsightedness was almost a prerequisite to becoming a notary! Whatever the case, it would seem that many notaries were making use of eyeglasses, a rather recent innovation, in order to be able to write so small.

A question arises: for whom was the ledger of Baptisms compiled? Additional handwriting at the top of most pages in a lighter ink might be that of the notary who compiled the Index. But, it is plausible that this handwriting is actually that of a notary responsible to officials of the Spanish Inquisition or to the Sicilian Parliament.

Published on July 26, 2009 at 3:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

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