Sunday, August 25, 2013

Working Scripts for (Somewhat) Ordinary Books

  Standard paleography textbooks tend to categorise scripts neatly, then present the finest or most representative of each type, giving the whole process of medieval handwriting an aura of greater order and system than it really has. I quite regularly get emails from users of the site who claim that the piece of medieval writing that they are trying to untangle doesn't look like any of the examples in books, or on the website for that matter. I have started a process of putting up samples of scripts on Medieval Writing which are just a little bit ordinary, not quite as standard as the archetypes and generally a bit more real world. Many of them are from the bits of medieval detritus that are floating around the world at the moment.
  The current project is to indicate that the French term bâtarde covers a great range of styles and types, some of them exquisitely beautiful and legible and others a bit scratchy and hard to untangle. The latest example comes from a leaf from a little 15th century Flemish book of hours, with delicious little jewelled gilded initials and a bit of medievally leaf spray in the margins, but somewhat hasty and spiky calligraphy. It was probably somebody's wondrous treasure, but most likely not the Duchess of Whatsit.
  No matter how many classificatory schemes we cook up, and how many generic schools of writing have existed, handwriting is always an individual and unique expression. That's why we love even the scruffiest little scraps of parchment we can find. They represent the last traces of somebody's individuality.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ever Wondered What Paleographers Do?

  Or for that matter why they do it. Here is a really nice summary, with beautiful eye candy manuscript pics.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


  Do they make paleographers like that any more? Malcolm B. Parkes, Palaeographer Do any workers in the hurly-burly of modern academic life have the time and contemplation to do this kind of detailed analytical work any more? Or is everybody too busy filling out performance reviews and rushing out yet another conference paper? The works of the pioneering masters of paleography will never be redundant or outdated.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ferocity of Iron Gall Ink

  The subject of iron gall ink seems to provoke the most enthusiastic discussion on this blog, particularly the formulations for making it. There has been some excitable discussion here. I have mentioned its capacity for chewing into parchment in the iron gall ink section of Medieval Writing, but this posting from Johan Oosterman is a stunner, or is that a stinker, of an example of what damage the stuff can do. Self-cannibalising manuscript.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Oh for a Quill and Parchment

  I repeatedly grizzle about how those medieval manuscripts we love have lasted for hundreds of years, but our fancy newfangled computer files turn to custard in just a few. I have just upgraded the graphics and formatting of the script samples for humanistic minuscule on Medieval Writing, so that they actually bear a closer resemblance to the beautiful bits of medieval calligraphy that they represent. As computer technology steadily improves, we are getting somewhat closer to producing images that actually look like segments from medieval manuscripts.