The Latin inscription on Main Guard

Judge Giovanni Bonello (June 18) has made a good point by quoting three printed works published before 1851, namely, Bigelow (1831), Dover (1836) and MacGill (1839). Of these three authors, I place more reliance on the first one.

Indeed, the first printed version of the Latin inscription on the Main Guard seems to be that given by Giuseppe Pericciuoli Borzesi, of Siena, in the first edition of his guide book published in 1830, p. 24. He set the inscription in six lines, with the last word being confirmat. MacGill had it printed with the same setting which might indicate that he was copying Borzesi.

Dover was in Malta in 1809. Therefore, he must have quoted the final part of the 1814 inscription from some other author. In contrast, the American Bigelow transcribed the inscription at first hand. Although his notes were published in 1831, he visited Malta in 1827. Passing by the Main Guard on March 3, the inscription caught his eye. Both the Latinity and sentiment of the wording struck him "as alike questionable" and he copied it "for the sake of accuracy". He set it in three lines and, although the word Melitensium was misspelt Militensium, the last word is given as confirmat, the same as Borzesi's version. Besides, the last three letters "mat" were given prominence, tending to emphasise their "questionable Latinity".

It is quite likely, therefore, as Judge Bonello points out, that Bonavita in 1823 made the correction in his own manuscript to improve the text. Which makes it rather strange that the inscription was bad from the start and never corrected.


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