The Heirloom Letter

If you’ve been paying attention around here, and I know you have, you know that I bought a letter, handwritten in French in 1680. I’ve been shuffling my life around this week a lot, but I wanted to give you an update on my translation of said missive.

In one word: fail.

It’s true. I’m laughing internally as I type this because I knew from day one that I was going to struggle with translation. I know a very little French, but I thought: hey, maybe Google translate might not be so rubbish after all.

Well, the problem is, as far as I can tell, this letter was written before the age of standardized French spelling. If you’ve seen old advertisements/ books, anything written in English before about 1900, you’ve seen the differences in spelling.

The same thing happened in France, about 1700. I believe that my letter is written in something called “Middle French”, which means the words are spelled just as Mr. Chiffard wanted them to be spelled. Which poses a lot of problems, number one being that Google translate is exactly zero help.

I’ve never been a quitter when it comes to languages, and codes, and deciphering such things, so I’ll keep trying. If you think you recognize any words here, do let me know.

I have managed to decipher a few things. On the second line about 3/4 across, is the word ‘Cotelle’, and the beginning of the fourth line says something akin to: ‘la table de mabre du palays a dijon…” (The marble table of the palace in Dijon…), and later on, one can see the word ‘Claude’. So I’ve managed to decipher a small amount.

Also, my brilliant sister in law managed to find a video of a left-handed person writing calligraphy and some of the letters were remarkably similar to these. Perhaps Mr. Chiffard was left-handed? If so,  was that unusual in France in the 1680s?

Photo Mar 21, 20 32 53

Anyway, onward and upward for me. Ta!

2 thoughts on “The Heirloom Letter

  1. Translating from one modern language to another is difficult enough, especially when your factor in idioms, colloquialisms, and slang. Now, add into that 400+ years of language evolution and antiquated writing styles, all I can say is “Oy vey!” I wish you much luck on your endeavor!

    1. Thanks! I’m content to let this be a many-years-long endeavor! It’ll help me really brush up on my French, too, and that’s not a bad thing… 🙂

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