Studying in the book of another’s notes

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By Sara Marie Westh

I am back, with another question from the Halliwell-Phillipps notebooks for our brilliant readers to ponder, since the last query yielded such a wealth of suggestions. Once again, my thanks to you all for your help as archival detectives extraordinaire.

To the present matter: I keep coming across “cur.” in the marginal notes, but cannot pin down its meaning. At least, it looks more like “cur.” than anything else to me, but this point, too, is up for consideration. It always appears alongside other marginal notes, and is never explained or written out. It is not always accompanied by the black cross in this image, which is a mystery unto itself, and it does not always correlate with the cuttings that later become notes in the final edition.

SBT Gl12/127 Halliwell Phillips notebook - The Tempest

SBT Gl12/127 Halliwell Phillips notebook – The Sonnets


In her astoundingly thorough AN ANALYSIS OF A NOTEBOOK OF JAMES ORCHARD HALLIWELL-PHILLIPPS, E.P. Pracy puzzles over the instance. She notes with The Oxford Dictionary of Abbreviations “cur. adv. vult.’ reads: ‘Law curia advisari vult. CAV or c.a.v. is defined as: Law (Latin: the court wishes to consider it; used in law reports when the judgement was given after the hearing)'” so that “Halliwell-Phillipps may have abbreviated curia advisari vult, ‘the court wishes to consider it’ to ‘cur’, deciding on this shorter form for his own use”. In this case, “it seems to have been used here and in other entries in the notebook, in addition to other annotation to indicate that the entry is awaiting a future decision” (16). This appeals in its use of Latin, but confuses in changing cav to cur – if Halliwell-Phillipps was familiar with the formal abbreviation, why not use it?

Presently, the most popular use of “cur.” appears to be as an abbreviation for “current”, but this is scant help, since there is no certain link between present and past use, nor between personal and general use. A fairly strong contender could be “currente”, but in relation to which process? Finally, Halliwell-Phillipps often places a full stop after his marginal notes (as the image shows), and so “cur.” may not be an abbreviation at all. The Latin “cur”, meaning “because” or “wherefore”, could thus be the intended meaning, but suffers from the same lack of context as “currente”.

And so I appeal again to the vast knowledge bank that is our readership. I do not find Pracy’s solution unlikely, but I do wonder whether a more apt explanation may wait to be uncovered out there, possibly in specialised vocabulary.


The views expressed in this post are the author’s own.

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Author:Sara Westh

Sara is a fourth year PhD student at the Shakespeare Institute, researching authorial intent in editing Shakespeare by way of philosophy of mind. She has been associate editor for Blogging and Reviewing Shakespeare for a year now, and is thoroughly enjoying herself. She also works for the Shakespeare Institute, the Shakespeare Institute Library, and Shakespeare Survey.
  • JimF

    I would suggest “currente calamo.” Try a search with “currente calamo” and Shakespeare (and with Halliwell-Phillipps if you like).

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