s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: Cat. & Reference: A mystery

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cat. & Reference: A mystery

A few days ago, I cataloged a book whose cover read as follows:

Aroostook, ss.
Supreme Judicial Court
September Term
A.D. 1881
Jonathan Ireland vs. David Dudley
writ dated february 7th, 1879

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what the "ss." stands for. I suspect it might be a pluralizatio of "s.", in the same way that "pp." is a pluralizaton of "p.", but I don't know what "s." stands for, in this case. I can find plenty of meanings for "ss" on Wikipedia and in the OED, but none of them makes sense in this case.

Aroostook is a county in Maine, so I Googled other counties to see if the same abbreviation ever followed their names. Sure enough, I found records for "Penobscot, ss.", "Cumberland, ss.", "Kennebec, ss.", etc., mostly from documents pertaining to the State of Maine Superior Courts in those areas. I've also found returns for counties in other states, such as Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Illinois, etc., again mostly on court documents.

I doubt that finding the answer to this puzzle will change my bib record for this book, but I'm dying of curiousity. Can someone please enlighten me as to what "ss." stands for?


At November 21, 2007 3:26 PM, Blogger Petra said...

Okay, this is interesting, so I've been Googling it too. You're not the only person to have asked: Yahoo! answers claims it means "substate," a thread of lawyers and law librarians claims it's "silicet," which witnesses that the location is correct, and that's backed up by several other threads related to law, though yet another group claims it's "signum sigili," for the same purpose. (Oh, and still others claim it's an abbreviation for "sections," but those claims are more general and not specifically aimed at the situation with county names.)

Maybe one of your readers will actually know. I'd still guess "silicet," though, because that's the answer from those with the most expertise.

And, as references:

At November 21, 2007 3:27 PM, Blogger Becca said...

Peter thinks it's plural sections. They'll often use the abbreviation sec. or the squiggly thing for section, but ss could be one, too.

At November 21, 2007 6:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Initialisms Dictionary:

One Half [Therapy term] (CTAA)
Sans [Without] [Latin] (DAVI)
Single Strength [Construction term] (MIST)
Society of the Priest of Saint Sulpice, Sulpician Fathers (TOCD)
Spanish Sahara [Western Sahara] [MARC country of publication code] [Library of Congress] (LCCP)
Stainless Steel (VRA)
Steamship (ELAL)
Substructure [Computer science]
Suspended Sentence [Legal term] (WDAA)
syncsort (SAUS)

At November 22, 2007 12:11 AM, Blogger alea said...

Does your local library have an genealogy guru? Or do you know one in your ward? Genealogists are full of arcane knowledge about government documents.

At November 22, 2007 12:10 PM, Blogger dimmi said...

Since I'm surrounded by genealogy and genalogists at work all day, every day, I checked for you.

In genealogy, SS is for Supra Scriptum, which means "as written above". (That could make sense if the place is usually the city and county names and the city and county names are the same.)

It can also mean "stepson", but I don't think that would be it.

At November 25, 2007 9:27 PM, Blogger Peter said...

Like Becca said, I think it may be ยงยง, or "sections".

At November 26, 2007 5:21 PM, Blogger kahu puke (da Librarian) said...

According to Black's Law Dictionary, 8th ed. (Thomson West, 2004):

ss. abbr. 1. Sections. 2. Subscripsi (i.e., signed below). 3. Sans (i.e., without). 4. (Erroneously) scilicet. "Many possible etymologies have been suggested for this mysterious abbreviation. One is that it signifies scilicet (= namely, to wit), which is usually abbreviated sc. or scil. Another is that ss. represents 'the two gold letters at the ends of the chain of office or "collar" worn by the Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench...' Max Radin, Law Dictionary 327 (1955). Mellinkoff suggests that the precise etymology is unknown: 'Lawyers have been using ss for nine hundred years and are still not sure what it means.' David Mellinkoff, The Language of the Law 296 (1963). In fact, though, it is a flourish deriving from the Year Books - an equivalent of the paragraph mark. Hence Lord Hardwicke's statement that ss. is nothing more than a division mark. See Jodderrell v. Cowell, 95 Eng. Rep. 222, 222 (K.B. 1737)... An early formbook writer incorporated it into his forms, and ever since it has been mindlessly perpetuated by one generation after another." Bryan A. Garner, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage 825 (2nd ed., 1995).


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