A visitor to Omniglot sent in this image of some mysterious writing from an inscription on a Biedermeier glass from 1830-1860, a type of Bohemian / Czechoslovakian glass. Can you make any sense of it?

Cursive Cyrillic mystery inscription

It looks like a cursive form of Cyrillic and reads something like “Сйо мень одь Госйос Дир Кторке Тр?імуко Сиус” or “Sjo menʹ odʹ Gosjos Dir Ktorke Tr?imuko Sius”. I have no idea what this might mean.

14 thoughts on “Puzzle

  1. Looks like Serbian: Spo msn’ | od’ | Gospos || D?nr Kt | orke Tr | svjuko | Cius

    I don’t speak a word of Serbian.

  2. Definitely looks like Serbian as the second letter is cursive п and the third letter on the second line of the obverse is ћ which together only occur in Serbian. Cursive п also occurs in Bulgarian and Macedonian but neither has ћ. However, the hard sign (ъ) was removed from the alphabet by Vuk Karadžić in the reformed orthography of 1818. Both спомен and од end in a hard consonant so historically it is correct.

    The second word on the obverse reads кторће which looks like it could be a variety of кћерка (daughter), although the dative should end in -и not -е as in Russian feminine nouns.

    I suppose it could be a Serbian dialect or the engraving could have been done by a craftsman who didn’t know Serbian but simply carved what he thought he heard.

    Altogether I would interpret it as reading: A memento from Mr. ‘Dir’ to the daughter of Prebiuchovius.

  3. Clearly I meant Trebiuchovius which is obviously not a Serbian name, perhaps Lithuanian.

  4. Spomen’ od’ Gospoe Dir(e)ktorke Trebiujkobinje == “remembrance of mister director Trebiujkobinje’ ?

  5. It indeed looks like archaic Serbian orthography. Typically Serbian are the shapes of п and т. On the other hand, ъ was removed by the Karadžić reforms in early 19th century.

    Споменъ одъ Госпос (Госпое)
    Commemoration from Gospos (perhaps a name? Gospod would be God or Lord; strangely it seems in nominative, although I would expect genitive after “od”).

    Директорке Требицковице
    To the director (+female suffix) of Trebickovic (a name of an institution? Google is silent about that.

  6. With some Google Translate (Serbian) help I get the following:
    Spomen’ od’ Gospos Direktorke Trebjukobius
    “To the memory of Mr Director [Trebjukobius]”
    The last word may be the person’s name, or perhaps it consists of more than one part which I cannot decipher.

  7. It sounds definitely better with ц, but still far from perfect, and the shape of the letter corresponds better to у. I have even entertained the thought that the second one may be щ, producing something like Trebickov(i)šte, which sounds like a plausible Bulgarian place name to my ears. But Bulgarian is ruled out by Serbian shapes of p and t (although they may have used them in Bulgarian too) and inflected form Direktorke (dative case).

  8. The letter that everyone thinks is ь to me looks more like ъ. None of the two exist in Serbian. Maybe ь existed in an early version? Or it could be Bulgarian. But in Bulgarian, like in Russian, every word ended in ь or ъ or a vowel.

    My version of the letters is:
    Споменъ одъ Госпос Директорке Требиуковиус

    According to Google Translate, “Spomen” means, among other things, something like memento/souvenir in both Serbian and Bulgarian. Also in both languages, “directorka” means “headmistress/female principal/directress”. So it means “memento from Gospos(?) to the headmistress Trebiukovius”. Also according to Google, “od” means “from” in Serbian but not Bulgarian.

  9. After all the above learned insight, I make it as:

    Споменъ одъ Госпос
    Директорке Требйуковиус

    Google Translate gives that as: “(Mentioned in/Remembrance of) Gospos
    Director Trebjukovius”. Without both yers it gives “Memorial of Gospos”.

    This difference might be an artefact of an older dialect. The spelling reform does make a difference in how it is read, as ‘ћ’ was an innovation of Karadžić, but he removed ‘ъ’. Those letters do look far closer to ‘ћ’ than to ‘к’ to me, but I could easily be wrong.

    A quick search in Google Maps gives several places in Solvenia named “Gosposka”, which seems to be Slovenian for “Lords”. “Gospos” also appears to be a surname, but I couldn’t find out from where it originates.

  10. I am a native Bulgarian speaker and I too am pretty sure it’s not Bulgarian. I think the translation would be “A souvenir/a memory from Gospos (some kind of name perhaps) to principal Trebiukovius”.

    To Lev: I agree with you. I think the best translation of “Direktorke” would be “female principal of a school” and in Bulgarian “from” is “ot” and not “od” as on the inscription.

  11. Unfortunately “Trebiukovius” doesn’t sound like a real name of a Serbian female principal. There is some Lithuanian flavour in it, but only male Lithuanian names end in -us.

  12. Споменъ одъ Госпое Директорке Требицковице.

    The last letter of the third word is clearly different from the third letter of the same word (which in turn is clearly a “c”), so it is definitely an “e” and not a “c”.

    The last word seems to be a bit tricky. Требиуковиус? Could be, but I don’t think so. First of all, if it’s a name – it’s definitely not a south Slavic one, and not even a Slavic one. Second, the last letter of the word looks more like an “e” than a “c”. It is therefore more likely that the preceding letter is a consonant. I have no idea as to the meaning of the dot above the fifth letter of the word, but in the end it seems to read “Требицковице” to me (which is the genitive of the name Требицковица – I haven’t encountered it so far, but phonetically it sounds very south Slavic indeed).

    This is my analysis – hope it was helpful!

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