Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Of Tennis Balls and Mulberry Trees

When I was a kid I used to play tennis at a suburban court. Next door was a huge back garden with an enormous mulberry tree. If we should happen to hit a ball over the fence, we would have to climb over to collect it. At certain seasons of the year, this process could be protracted, involving a diversion up the mulberry tree, which was ended when the old lady who lived there would open the back door and yell at us to clear off. She never seemed to do this straight away, but just when she figured we had probably had quite enough.
The latest addition to Medieval Writing is script sample for a very tiny,semi-cursive Gothic rotunda script, as used in a theological work for personal study. I continue on my merry path of tormenting you with horrible scripts of the kind that you probably won't find in paleography books, but you will find if you want to read things in the wild archives and libraries.
I have had this leaf for some time, and have used it on the website to show some of the interesting marginalia, but I hadn't tried using it for a script sample or a paleography exercise as it had me baffled. It purports to be from a work in praise of the Virgin Mary by one Richardus de Sancto Laurentio, about whom very little seems to be known, and I could not find a transcript or translation of his text anywhere. So why not just read it? Well, it is rather difficult, with a lot of abbreviations, but I was sure I was getting something totally confused as it appeared to be trying to say that the Virgin Mary was an almond tree on one side of the page, and a mulberry tree on the other. There was something I just didn't get.
Recently I discovered, not a transcript or a translation, but a complete digital facsimile of an incunabula version of the work on a library website in Germany, and all was revealed. The chapter from which my page was abstracted was all about comparing the Virgin to a hortus conclusus, an enclosed garden, and in the process identifying her with all the different plants therein. Very strange. The Virgin was an almond tree and a mulberry tree and Christ was its fruit.
And to think that in my tennis playing childish innocence, covering myself with red goo up a mulberry tree, I was participating in a spiritual experience with very uncomfortable resonances with the ritual cannibalism to which the medieval Catholic church was so devoted. Mulberries as host, bread as the body of Christ, red dribbles all down the shirt front. Scarey.
I will provide a limited paleography exercise for a segment of the page when my shaking nerves are restored, and I have nutted out what this crazy guy was on about.


Renaissance Festivals said...


beautiful and useful posting about of medieval era..i liked your all posting...

will you post some thing renaissance festivals..


Anonymous said...

hi!This was a really splendid blog!
I come from itlay, I was fortunate to approach your subject in google
Also I obtain a lot in your blog really thanks very much i will come again

Nicole said...

Hi Dianne,

Your blog redesign looks great!

I really enjoy your blog and of course Medieval Writing.

Thanks for all the wonderful content and information, it's such a wealth of fascinating material.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for my bad english. Thank you so much for your good post. Your post helped me in my college assignment, If you can provide me more details please email me.