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Confusing sentence in Comenius - on usury, interest rates

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Confusing sentence in Comenius - on usury, interest rates

Postby Phil- » Sun Aug 31, 2014 12:42 am

Hello,

In proofreading a transcription of the Janua Linguarum by Comenius, I came across a sentence I can't make sense of:

864. Qui supra sortem (summam primitivam) foenus (usuras) exigit, sive unciarum (centesimam, 12. pro 100.) sive semunciarum (semissem, 6. pro 100.), non creditor est sed foenerator (danista).

(Some editions omit some or all of the specific interest rates. E.g. one of the English translations, "He that exacts usury above one's state or abilities is not a creditor but a usurer.")

A few questions:
(1) Why are "unciarum" and "semunciarum" in the genitive plural?
(2) Why are those seemingly unequal interest rates equated? (8.¯3% = 1% = 12%, 4.1¯6% = 6% = 6%, IF my reading is correct.)
(3) Can"12. pro 100." be rendered "duodecim pro centum" and similarly for "6. pro 100."?

If it is nonsense after all, I can simply delete the specific interest rates, but I want to make sure I'm not misreading the sentence. Thanks.
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Re: Confusing sentence in Comenius - on usury, interest rate

Postby bedwere » Sun Aug 31, 2014 8:22 pm

Here's my practically useless take.

1) foenus (usuras) unciarum?

2) I think that there may be two (or more) interpretations, as not all our ancestors were mathematicians :D It indicates a fractional quantity related to 12, but it may be 12/100 or 1/12. Same for semunciarum. Also it is not specified whether the interest is monthly or yearly. I guess "Caveat emptor". But don't credit card companies do the same today using the small print?

3) Why not?

Neither a borrower nor a lender be :D
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Re: Confusing sentence in Comenius - on usury, interest rate

Postby hlawson38 » Sun Aug 31, 2014 9:06 pm

864. Qui supra sortem (summam primitivam) foenus (usuras) exigit, sive unciarum (centesimam, 12. pro 100.) sive semunciarum (semissem, 6. pro 100.), non creditor est sed foenerator (danista).


Usually I'm asking questions, but I will try to answer. Somebody who speaks with authority, please check me!

I'll English the sentence in a way that makes the genitive in the Latin more obvious:

Whoever above the amount loaned demands interest of the twelfth-part or the twenty-fourth part is no creditor but a usurer.

Surely this was an ideal rather than a practical rule, because if I get this right it means interest 8.3 percent or 4.167 per cent.
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Re: Confusing sentence in Comenius - on usury, interest rate

Postby Phil- » Mon Sep 01, 2014 4:12 am

bedwere wrote:1) foenus (usuras) unciarum?

hlawson38 wrote:Whoever above the amount loaned demands interest of the twelfth-part or the twenty-fourth part is no creditor but a usurer.

Of course! I see it now.

bedwere wrote:2) I think that there may be two (or more) interpretations, as not all our ancestors were mathematicians :D It indicates a fractional quantity related to 12, but it may be 12/100 or 1/12. Same for semunciarum. Also it is not specified whether the interest is monthly or yearly. I guess "Caveat emptor". But don't credit card companies do the same today using the small print?

Ok, so maybe "centesimam [per mensem]" = "12. pro 100. [per annum]", and "unciarum" and "semunciarum" here are to be interpreted loosely. So it works out. I'll put in those notes.

hlawson38 wrote:Surely this was an ideal rather than a practical rule, because if I get this right it means interest 8.3 percent or 4.167 per cent.

Agreed--I've heard that it was sometimes many times this, though I have no idea what the average was.

bedwere wrote:Neither a borrower nor a lender be :D

If only I had followed that advice! Oh student loans...
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Re: Confusing sentence in Comenius - on usury, interest rate

Postby hlawson38 » Mon Sep 01, 2014 5:02 pm

My arithmetic in the prev. post is untrustworthy. I was confused about the arithmetic meaning when I replied. I'm still in the dark about that. :(
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Re: Confusing sentence in Comenius - on usury, interest rate

Postby Phil- » Mon Sep 01, 2014 5:22 pm

hlawson38 wrote:My arithmetic in the prev. post is untrustworthy. I was confused about the arithmetic meaning when I replied. I'm still in the dark about that. :(

Literally taken, I believe "uncia" means 1/12 and "semiuncia" 1/24, as you said. But here they seem to mean 12% and 6%. At least that's the only way all those could equal each other.
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