Saturday, March 29, 2014

Irish Gospels

  The task of updating graphic in Medieval Writing grinds relentlessly on as a result of the generosity of the British Library in making their colour images available for mere mortals like me to use. The latest update is an example of insular minuscule from the 12th century Irish Gospels of Maelbrigte. The sample includes a nifty initial with beasties and comes with a script example and paleography exercise.
  The passage is one of my favourites from the Vulgate Bible, the beginning of the Gospel of St John. I guess I like it because it seems to be a massive word play in which sentences and phrases hook together like links in a chain, repeating something of the previous expression while introducing a new concept, which is in turn linked back. This is unusual as the structure of the gospels texts is generally plain narrative, although John does have some repeating tag lines for emphasis, like the one which appears in the King James version as "Verily I say unto you ..." I just wonder how this particular passage got there and why.
  Insular minuscule is also my favourite script, partly because of its uniqueness and elegance, and partly because it proudly flew its flag for centuries when all of continental Europe was going all boring and Carolingian. OK, some folks say that makes it hard to read, but it isn't really. It just has its own code. It's really quite consistent and logical within itself. Enjoy it.

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