A post from Shady Characters

Do you know Latin?

The Shady Characters manuscript is on the very cusp of completion, but eagle-eyed copy-editor Rachelle Mandik has noticed that I have inadvertently left a Latin book title untranslated in the chapter concerning the manicule (☞). The title is as follows:

Repetitio capituli: Omnis utriusque sexus; De poenitentiis et remissionibus1

which Google Translate helpfully mangles as:

The repetition of the chapter: Every persons of both sexes; Concerning the repentance and remission of

I am, unfortunately, ignorant of Latin, and this is likely as accurate a translation as I would be able to come up with myself. As such, I would be very, very grateful if any learned Shady Characters readers could weigh in with their own translations.

For context, the book was published in Memmingen in Germany in 1490, and it appears to be a Christian text. It is printed rather than written by hand, as can be seen in this scanned copy belonging to the Technische Universität Darmstadt. Can you provide a more accurate rendering of the title? If so, I would of course make sure to acknowledge you in the printed book!

Update: We have a pair of winners! Readers AB and John Cowan have together come up with what sounds like a very convincing translation of the problematic book title:

Lecture on the canon “Omnis utriusque sexus”; On [the Sacrament of] Penance and the remission [of sins]

You can read their reasoning below. Thanks again to all who commented! Shady Characters is lucky indeed to have such knowledgeable readers.

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14 comments on “Do you know Latin?

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Interesting. So the implication is that this is perhaps a chapter book, or a description of a chapter’s religious orders?

  1. Comment posted by John Cowan on

    The last part certainly means “On [the sacrament of] penance and remission [of sins]”.

  2. Comment posted by AB on

    from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09018a.htm :

    Canon 21, the famous “Omnis utriusque sexus”, which commands every Christian who has reached the years of discretion to confess all his, or her, sins at least once a year to his, or her, own (i.e. parish) priest. This canon did no more than confirm earlier legislation and custom, and has been often but wrongly, quoted as commanding for the first time the use of sacramental confession.

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi AB — thanks for the comment. In combination with John’s comment below, I think the riddle is solved!

  3. Comment posted by John Cowan on

    Ah, I see. Repetitio in mediaeval Latin is a synonym for lectura, so the first part up through the semicolon means “Lecture on the canon ‘Omnis utriusque sexus’ “, which was released as part of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. As usual for such things, it is named after the first few words, meaning “everyone of both sexes”. This canon required that every Catholic must receive the Sacrament of Penance (i.e. go to confession) at least once a year. The remaining part means “On [the Sacrament of] Penance and the remission [of sins]”. It’s not clear to me whether this is just an explanation of what the canon is about, or whether it might not be the title of a separate work bound with this one.

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi John — thanks for the comments! That will all help immensely. The complete title, then, is something along the lines of “Lecture on the canon ‘Omnis utriusque sexus’; On [the Sacrament of] Penance and the remission [of sins]”, where the second clause is a mnemonic title for the canon law under discussion. I should be able to wrangle that into shape for the book without too much difficulty.

      Sterling work. Thanks again!

  4. Comment posted by Conrad on

    I asked my wife if she could figure it out. She found an Italian translation of the book, who’s title translated to “Repeat chapter: all and both genders, repentance and release”.
    (she speaks most romance languages… so I tend to trust her skills)

  5. Comment posted by Conrad on

    …though John’s makes more sense and is based on a less literal translation…

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi Conrad — thanks for the comments. I did wonder if there was some less literal meaning lurking in there, and it looks like knowing that “Omnis utriusque sexus” referred to a canon law was the key to it.

      Thanks again!

  6. Comment posted by Stan on

    Regarding the title of this post (but not its content), this news story is significant: a reporter whose knowledge of Latin gave her the scoop on the pope’s resignation announcement.

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Thanks for the link! I live for the day when my knowledge of the interrobang or pilcrow gives me the drop on other bloggers.

  7. Comment posted by Solo Owl on

    My favorite Latin dictionary app, William Whitaker’s Words, tells me that capituli can also mean “floret, flower head” and, hence, “hemorrhoids”. Not to give offense, but could not this book be the infamous Repitition of hemorrhoids in everyone of both sexes; repentance and release

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