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A Latin blunder in stained glass! Errare humanum est

Blog | By Harry Mount | Apr 17, 2020

The correct version of Brian's mistaken graffiti from Life of Brian - in the Hull and East Riding Museum (Credit: Chemical Engineer)

The editor of Stationers' News, the magazine for members of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, has spotted a Latin mistake – in a stained glass window in the Stock Room of Stationers' Hall. The mistake appears in the Stationers' own motto.

The motto should read, 'Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum' - 'The word of the Lord lasts for ever.' Instead, it reads, 'Verbum Domine Manet in Aeternum'. In other words, Domini in the genitive has been replaced by Domine in the vocative - a mistake straight out of Monty Python's Life of Brian, as the editor points out in a good-natured way.

The editor adds, 'Was this really a mistake? The late Liveryman Sir John Sparrow (another Old Stationer) reminded us that Latin developed over time and that the motto may have been transposed into what was later known as Vulgar Latin - a spoken dialect that did not respect all the grammatical structures of the past.'

In any case, errare humanum est - and to admit to your errors is even more human.