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The Romance of Language

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The following is a guest post by Taru Spiegel, Reference Specialist in the European Division.

A lawyer I know who does legal drafting says that there is no need to use archaic terms such as “aforethought,” “forthwith,” “wherefore,” or “to wit.”  Legal language should be clear, concise, and unambiguous.  Everybody should be able to understand what is being said.  This is probably true – I once heard another lawyer refer to his baby daughter as acting “sua sponte!”  A romantic at heart, I nonetheless have a secret fondness for obscure terms in Gothic writing.

Imagine my delight when I came across some proclamations by Queen Christina of Sweden (1626–1689) among the printed ephemera of the Library of Congress Rare Book & Special Collections.  They have beautiful script, deckled edges, and sound almost like something by the fictional “Imperial Majesty Jadis, Queen of Narnia, Chatelaine of Cair Paravel, Empress of the Lone Islands, etc.” in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis.  Never mind that these 17th-century documents in the Library prosaically deal with trade and money owed to the Crown.

The particular broadside depicted here has to do with taxing tobacco imports.  Sweden had established a colony in the Delaware Valley in 1638 called “New Sweden,” and as a consequence, lucrative trade, especially in the increasingly popular tobacco, was anticipated.  After revoking the Söderländske Company’s monopoly rights, the Swedish Crown wanted to make sure its right to share in the revenue from all tobacco trade was still understood by all concerned.


We Christina, by the Grace of God, elected Queen of Sweden, the Goths and the Wends, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Finland, Duchess of Estonia and Karelia, Mistress of Ingria. Make it known that Our order a few years ago endowed the Söderländske Company with special privileges concerning the tobacco trade and by public announcements forbade all Our other subjects and operators in our Kingdom to introduce tobacco or be penalized and punished. However, We now for particular judicious reasons consider Our granted privilege and the prior announcements in order that they be entirely revoked and punishment withdrawn. Therefore, We, by the power of this Our announcement have forbidden any further tobacco monopoly and both foreigners as well as Our own subjects, both in the country and in the cities, who wish to trade in tobacco to earn a living are allowed to do so unhindered as soon as the winter has passed and seafaring begins again. And all those who are either Our subjects or foreigners shall compensate Us and the Crown in the customs a half thaler silver coin for each pound of tobacco which they import thus, or by wagon over borders. However, should anyone undertake to secretly import tobacco, either for sale, or for their own use in order to embezzle from Us, Our customs will seize and confiscate the aforesaid tobacco according to law given by Us and Our customs officials and the amount for Us and the Crown which is seized, We will graciously grant in support to the aforesaid Söderländske Company. Hereby Our Governor in Stockholm, State Council, governors and chiefs, and all concerned, especially our maritime customs officials and inspectors of border customs are put on notice. For further assurance We have signed this with our own hand and additionally permitted the use of our seal underneath. Dated Stockholm, October 25, 1649.

Even more romantic is the renaissance Swedish language:

Wij Christina medh Gudz nåde Sweriges/ Göthes/ och Wendes vthkorade Drottning och Arffurstinna/ Storfurstinna til Finland/ Hertiginna vthi Est land och Carelen/ Fröken öfwer Ingermanland. Göre witterligit/ at endoch Wij för någre åhr sedan, monde på någon tijdh tilgörandes benåda thet Söderländske Compagniet medh särdeles privilegier på tobackz handelen/ och igenom Wåre tå aff Trycket uthgångne öpne Placater, alle andre Wåre Undersåtare och traffiquerande här i Wårt Rijke/ aldeles förbiuda något Toback att införa til salu eller eliest/ wid pæn och straff tilgörandes: Doch lijkwäl emedan wij nu för särdeles skäl och Orsaker skuld för godt an sij/ berörde Wårt gifne Privilegium och förre ther öfwer vthgångne Placater heelt at vphäfwa och strafflöse göra. Hwarföre wele Wij här medh i krafft aff thetta Wårt öppne Placat, hafwa förbudit alt wijdare monopolium medh Toback/ och alle i gemeen/ så Fremmande som eliest Wåre egne Undersåtare/ så å Landet/ som i Städerne/ som lust hafwa medh Toback at handla och sin Näring sökia/ effterlåtit thet obehindrat at göra / så snart thenne nu tilstundande Winter förbit är/ och Seglationen åter begynnar at gå. Och skole ale the/ thet ware sigh anten Wåre Undersåtare i Rijket eller vthrijkes Fremmande/ erläggia til Oss och Cronan i Tull för hwart Skålpund Taback the införa sidledes/ eller Landwågen öfwer Grentzerne/ en half Daler Sölfwermyntt. Men understår sigh någon at hemligen införa något Toback anten til salu/ eller sitt eget behoff/ i then acht och mening at försnilla Oss therigenom Wår Tull/ så skal han hafwa samma Toback förbrutit vnder confiscation til treskiptes/ Os/ angifwaren och Wåre betiente widh Tullen/ och then deel til Oss och Cronan blifwer förbrutit/ wele Wij nådigast hafwa förvndt och tilslagit föreskrefne Söderländske Compagniet. Här Wår Ofwerståt hållare i Stockholm/ Rijks Cammerrådh/ Gouverneurer och Landzhöfdingar/ sampt alle som wederböre/ serledes Wåre Tullnårer öfwer Siötullarne och Inspectorer öfwer Gräntzetullarne/ hafwa sigh at efterrätta. Til yttermehra wisso hafwe Wij thetta medh egen Hand vnderskrifwit/ och witterligen låtit fåt tia Wårt Secret här nedan före. Datum Stockholm den 25. Octobris Anno 1649.


Locus Sigilli

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