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The Latin inscription on Main Guard (1)

Like Judge Giovanni Bonello, I was intrigued by Albert Ganado's letter on the erroneous inscription on the Main Guard in Valletta, and even more so by Judge Bonello's interesting take on the matter. I tended to agree with Dr Bonello's suggestion that the pre-1851 author cited by Dr Ganado, Judge Vincenzo Bonavia, in transcribing the inscription, had corrected the error existing since 1814 by substituting "confirmant" for "confirmat".

However, I did find another two pre-1851 publications, besides the one which had been cited by Dr Ganado, which quote the inscription with the correct "confirmant". This lends further support to Dr Ganado's opinion that the tablet was correctly inscribed in 1814 with confirmant and erroneously renewed in 1851 with confirmat. One of the publications in question is the English translation by W.E. Shuckard of Travels In The East by the German author Constantine Tischendorff published in London in 1847. After scathingly criticising Malta's patronising "northern protectors", Mr Tischendorff writes: "...a certain trait of Maltese nationality stands prominently forth in harsh contrast, notwithstanding the inscription glittering in gold opposite the palace of the governor: Magnae et invictae Britanniae Melitensium amor et Europa vox has insulas confirmant, 1814." The second publication is the similarly titled Damascus and Palmyra: A Journey To The East by Charles G. Addison published in both London and Philadelphia in 1838. In this case, Mr Addison quotes the correct "confirmant" but further complicates matters with another error: "amor melitensium" instead of "melitensium amor". Did these two authors, the latter clearly prone to inaccuracy, also correct the faulty inscription?

I encountered another interesting detail in The Order Of The Hospital Of St John Of Jerusalem by Bedford & Holbeche, published in 1902. Here the inscription is transcribed with the incorrect confirmat with a footnote stating "The inscription runs thus, 'confirmat,' in the original." Were the authors here referring to the "original" (pre-1851) inscription or did they mean by "original" the stone engraving existing in 1902?

A tangled thread indeed: it appears that confirmation (excuse the pun) is still lacking. Perhaps it exists somewhere in the form of a pre-1851 print or photograph showing the Main Guard portico.

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