by Peter Badham

This article is a follow up to Rachel Boyd’s article, which appeared in the September 2007 Journal, p.15

Given the problem over reproduction of National Library of Wales material I tried to produce something which might help fill the gap and pick up Rachel’s challenge. I have, first of all, written out the first line of the bond. I do this sometimes when I am struggling with a particular scribe’s hand and I use a pencil sharpened to have a slightly flat end like a nib. I find this helps to get a feel for the way marks are made which in turn helps make out the letters. It also has the major advantage of being easily erased!

As Rachel said this particular example is difficult and is dated 27 July 1669. When I first looked at it, I thought it was a variation on a standard theme for bonds. It took a long time to get to grips with the style and then discover it was standard language. I should say that I have never learnt Latin and rely on a few key crib books, three of which I have listed below. Apart from the actual formation of the letters and the Latin, there are two other things to contend with, namely shortenings and flourishes.

 Noverint     universi     per     presentes      nos      Marium    Baddam    de   Haverfordwest

 Know         all men      by [these] presents  we       Mary        Badham    of    Haverforswest


The first phrase in this case has an elaborated first capital and exaggerated other loops and size, no doubt to emphasise the importance of the document. One effect of this, in the example, is that it is difficult to pick out where the word breaks are, particularly apparent in the gap between univer  and si in the second word. The first word is Noverint and the first shortening occurs as the loop over the top placed after the “v” which looks like a letter “u”.1 These last two are often interchangeable. This loop represents “er”. The next word gave me a lot of trouble until I looked at some other bonds of a similar period, which all used the Latin word universi. A closer look at the beginning curl reveals that it is not an initial “c”2 but a leading flourish to a “u” and the “v” has been continued up into a slightly lost loop over the top,3 which is a differently formed “er” shortening. Feeling somewhat foolish I then realised that the glorified “s” and the “i”4 were the ending of the standard word universi. The next character is a reasonably standard shortening of “per” with a line through the tail,5 although in the original it looks much like an unbroken loop and in my rewrite I have made the form a little more obvious.

The next section had me going for quite a while – don’t ask how long! In the end it is standard text, again with a short version of “pre”6 tacked on to “sentes”7 giving us presentes. This four word phrase begins an enormous number of bonds, of one kind or another, and this is the saving grace for family and local historians, who have not been taught Latin or palaeographical skills. The phrase will be found in many of the examples in books on palaeography and reads Noverint universi per presentes and is usually translated “Know all men by [these] presents.” In the bond, Rachel has looked at, it continues “we8 Mary Baddam9 of10 Haverfordwest (that “er”11 shortening again) in the county of Pembrokeshire and Richard Smith of the same…” Richard is bound with Mary to the tune of “quadraginta” pounds, the large amount of £40 which is to be in good and lawful money of England. (No Welsh leeks on the back of it then!) It is possible, therefore, to dredge out the useful detail from a family history point of view, although it does require a lot of patience.

The bond with the missing words added appears below:

The Condition of this obligation is such that if the above bound Mary Baddam Executrix of the last will and testament of Evan Baddam deceased does well and truly pay & discharge all the debts and legacyes of the ^sd deceadint as farr as his goodes will amount unto and the Laws her charge, And ixhibit a true & pfect [perfect] Inventory of ^all the goodes & Chattles of the sd deceadent when she shalbe thereto lawfully Called, And give a true account thereof, And lastly shall save keep harmless and indemnify the said lord Bpp [Bishop] and all his officers for grantinge the probatt of ye said will that then this obligation to be voyd or els to be and remaine in full force power and vertue.

[It is obvious from Peter’s hand written sample of the handwriting of that time, that it was a very difficult task to transcribe it in modern script. Rachel did well to do as much as appeared in the original article. I “chickened-out” from attempting Rachel’s challenge and I did do Latin at school but only up to Form III. - Ed.]

NOTE: Where there is a circumflex in the text (^), it indicates that the character(s) following are superscript.


Latin for Local History, an introduction, Eileen A Gooder, Longman (paperback), 
2nd edition, 1978. [This book has a good number of examples of formula documents.]

Latin for Local and Family Historians, Denis Stuart, Phillimore, 1995.

Palaeography for Family and Local Historians, Hilary Marshall, Phillimore, 2004.