Sunday, February 13, 2011

Glossed Bible

And a little bit of medieval detritus that I found has turned out to be a torn fragment of a page of what was once probably a very nice glossed Bible. I have put a segment of it here so you can have a peek.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Monastic Pressmarks

OK, I promised I would sneak a little something in. There is a set of new script samples of cursive writing from the 14th and 15th centuries, as found in monastic pressmarks, basically inscriptions in books as to where they are stored in the library. These are interesting on a few counts. They show the diversity of cursive hands, but they also show something of medieval monastic library practice, and they point out avenues which have been used by researchers for discovering the history of books.
I have made some minor changes to the frame structure of the site, and before you say you hate it anyway and I should throw it out, I might point out that it is only there so that I can do some of these reorganisings when certain sections get overloaded, as I only have to change the navigation frame, not umpty gazillion pages. The script index now has its own section, as that is what a lot of people use the most, and it is getting kind of large. The navigation frame is wider, as I figure you have all got wider screens than the one that it was originally designed for. If the site comes up looking really weird next time you load it, just try clearing your cache so that everything fits again. If your favourite section has somehow got lost in the wash, please let me know.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Medieval 90s

  The stuff you find when you start looking through old files! No doubt I thought this primitive bit of computer cartooning infinitely hilarious in nineteen ninety something, but it's a variation on the monk in a scriptorium joke that every medievalist had some variant of on their pinboard at the time.  What is really scarey is that the computer the chap is typing on was just like the one I had at the time, complete with little foldup screen which, in my case,would not have displayed that lovely coloured capital as it could only manage vile electric green in chunky pixelated lumps. I wonder if I should re-do it with him holding an iPad, or has this lame old monk/computer joke run its course?
  Actually, I think this was originally a monk with a typewriter joke that I pinched in concept from somebody else. Ah, the 20th century was so medieval!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Dirty Medieval Books

  OK, so here I am dutifully typing up catalogue entries from scruffy old notebooks and sending files into The Cloud and vowing not to do anything fun until the job is done, when the family medievalist walks in with something he found while looking for something else in the London Metropolitan Archives, and I'm hooked.
  One of the things that has always intrigued me in my own collection of medieval manuscript detritus is the greasy finger marks which can be quite apparent on the edges of the pages. I'm sure there is some residual DNA in there, and we could clone ourselves a friar or a devout lay person or two. I even once snagged a tiny little miniature on an orphan page from a book of hours. It went cheap because it was smudged. As it was an image of Veronica's handkerchief, odds on it was smudged by having been kissed by its owner. To me that is value added, but not to the buying public apparently. But somebody else of significant stature in the medieval art history world has got right into this subject.
  Kathryn Rudy has spent some time, effort and ingenuity actually measuring the amount of grot from finger marks on books of hours in order to work out which parts were read most frequently. A brief article entitled Measuring Medieval Dirt can be found on the website of the London Metropolitan Archives. Her longer article, Dirty Books, appears on the website of the Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art, Volume 2, Issue 1. You have to look it up from the home page as it appears that the site will not let you in through a direct link. It is a long article, but unfortunately the many illustrations appear to have been removed. (They have since been restored.)
  A couple of her main conclusions indicate that late medieval folks were a bit like us; they hit the indulgences pretty hard for fear of the hereafter, and they didn't manage to stay up late enough to complete the entire daily round of offices. Mortal humans all.
  There seems to be a bit of lateral thinking going on in manuscript studies at the moment, with new ways of looking at things and new questions to ask. Those who claim that paleography is dead just need to broaden their definition of the term.