Monday, July 25, 2011

Medieval Recycling

  The most recent addition to the site is a script sample of 15th century French cursive. Only trouble is, the document has been used for centuries as a parchment book cover and is in horrible condition and incomplete. This is good practice for looking at mucky old documents in archives rather than exquisite paleography samples in books. 
  For some reason I am always fascinated by recycled scraps. You always feel you have discovered something, even if you can't work out what it is exactly, and you do wonder why it got thrown away in the first place. 
  When printed books came in there was probably the same sort of handwringing angst that there is right now about e-books (No, please don't start on that one again!), and the work of many scribes was recycled into book covers and pastedowns and wrappers and heaven knows what else. The kinds of books most likely to turn up in this context were liturgical works and law texts, as the printed versions which replaced them were all identical and were not supposed to have any mistakes. You see, the great advantage of printing was not so much ease of production, as it was a very cumbersome process if somewhat faster than handwriting, but content control.
  So it is a bit intriguing to find an old deed in the recycling bin. Families have held on to these things for centuries on the basis that they are heirlooms, and you never know, they might still entitle you to something. I saw an Elizabethan document the other day from a family collection that was signed by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Cool! I guess families die out, or become so impecunious that they have to sell their useless old deeds for bookwrappers.

1 comment:

D_Dretske said...

I never imagined documents were used this way. Thanks for sharing another slice of Medieval life with us.