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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Summer Camp in Central Minnesota: Without Camp Songs or Campfires.

Hmmm.... Codex, or Scroll?

Next week marks the 2012 iteration of the Minnesota Manuscript Research Laboratory (MMRL), a one-week workshop introducing participants to several aspects of manuscript studies: paleography, codicology, finding manuscripts, describing manuscripts, Western and non-Western manuscripts, and even early printing.  All of the photographs in this blog entry are of materials from the Saint John's collections that will be used during the MMRL.  Lists of all the manuscripts and incunabula at Saint John's are available on our Special Collections Wiki.  The list of instructors is the MMRL Wiki-site, which is still in development.

Latin New Testament, dated late 13th or early 14th century (SJU Ms. 12)

Detail of f. 3r showing a correction where a word has been scraped off and a new one entered.

The workshop is sponsored by the Center for Medieval Studies at the University of Minnesota and by the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, Saint John's University (Collegeville, MN).  While the overarching goal of the MMRL is to introduce graduate students to the world of manuscript studies for their research projects, the week is also open to those who wish to deepen their understanding of the early technology for the transmission of knowledge, the manuscript. This year we have eight participants and four instructors (plus a guest speaker).

Preparing for this week brought me back to the recent Introduction to Manuscript Studies by Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham (Cornell UP, 2007).  This wonderful volume provides a very broad and yet detailed account of the terminology, concepts, issues, and methods for manuscript studies.  It provides for manuscripts what Philip Gaskell's New Introduction to Bibliography (Oak Knoll, 1995) does for early printed books.  Both volumes are useful to new scholars and advanced scholars alike.

Folio 3v of SJU Ms. 12.

Corrections using a red line to strike out the text (fourth line from bottom), combined with dots under the text to be omitted. Also, a word to be inserted at the bottom of the column.

For example, Clemens and Graham reminded me of the ongoing process in the Middle Ages to make sure that the text of the manuscript was as accurate as possible. To this end, one finds many examples for manuscript corrections in the Saint John's collection also.  One manuscript, a late 13th or early 14th-century copy of the New Testament in Latin (possibly from Paris?) also uses a vast number of abbreviations.  Since the Latin text is commonly available in printed editions, this manuscript provides a good exercise for practicing the recognition of abbreviations, letterforms, and corrections.

Folio 7v of SJU Ms. 12, with correction in the left margin.

This correction includes a small symbol (%) that matches a symbol in the text to show where the missing text is to be inserted.

Now for a small confession, the samples I have been showing were found not from the manuscript itself, but from our digital photographs of the manuscript.  Codex 12 is tiny, only about 5 inches tall, and the handwriting is extremely tiny.  You can see the entire manuscript here. Working from the digital copy was easier (and less risky) than working with the actual manuscript itself! However, working with the original brings its own rewards.

There are other topics to be discussed during the MMRL, such as interesting marginalia ...

"Marco de Fasana e un bestiale ignorante ..." from SJU Ms. 4 (Latin Grammar in Humanist hand).

Beyond paleography, however, there are codicological questions to be discussed during the MMRL.  One such question concerns the nature of book binding itself.  Often, it is more useful to work with a book that has sustained damage over the years rather than to work with one in pristine condition.  If the backing for the spine has come off, then it is possible to see exactly how the book's binding is constructed.

Elements of the binding (such as the head band, the use of leather thongs to tie the gathering together, etc.) can be easily seen in this binding on an incunable edition of Servius' commentary on Virgil (1471).

Other types of stitching for book bindings might be common elsewhere. This and the picture below show the binding of an Ethiopian manuscript (probably 18th or 19th century, so not "medieval"). 

Note the interweaving cord loops of the Ethiopian binding. This is quite different from European bindings with leather thongs or cords onto which the gatherings sewn.

My part in the MMRL will be largely running books up and down stairs between the classroom and the rare books rooms.  Unfortunately, our only elevator is out of service at the moment, so I really will be "running."  This is also unfortunate, because one of our favorite manuscripts to show is a late-medieval antiphonal which is about 30 inches tall and weighs (I am guessing) close to 50 pounds--not easily carried up the stairs!

I will also give a presentation on early printing, especially from the 15th and early 16th centuries.  Since SJU has over 65 incunabula, limiting my presentation to one hour will be a challenge!  However, the focus of MMRL is not printed books, but manuscripts.  Here are a couple samples from the books I will be presenting:

1485 Missale with extra decoration to imitate manuscript style.  Printed in two colors, with red staves for music, there are no notes printed on the staves.

1493 Missale that does have musical notation printed on the red staves.  It also has hand-written marks over several of the pericopes that indicate that perhaps the text was chanted or sung (more on this in the Special Collections Wiki page on incunabula).

The three Saint John's collections (Saint John's Rare Books, Arca Artium Rare Books, and HMML Rare Books) offer many opportunities to study the development of the book (introduction of title pages, foliation, catchwords, illustrations, etc.) over the course of the latter half of the fifteenth and first half of the sixteenth centuries.

A 1482 glossed edition of Gratian's Decretum.

The end of a 1494 edition of Boccaccio with printer's device and colophon.

Woodcut from the 1494 Boccaccio. The edition features several pages of woodcut diagrams.

Two early examples from the early 16th century are specifically Benedictine--a copy of the Rule of Benedict in Italian (1501) and a copy of the second Dialogue of Gregory (Life of Benedict), the Rule of Benedict, and a short work by Bernard of Clairvaux (1505)--all in Latin.

1501 Italian translation of the Rule of Benedict, published by Lucantonio Giunta.

Saint Benedict, holding a book (a copy of the Rule), next to his two closest followers, St. Placid and St. Maur.

Title page of the 1505 Latin edition containing Gregory the Great's second Dialogue, the Rule of Benedict, and a work by Bernard of Clairvaux.  This is also published by Lucantonio Giunta, whose publisher's device appears on the title page.

The Benedictines have the tradition of welcoming guests with a greeting of "Peace!"  HMML and the Center for Medieval Studies welcome our visitors with


We hope to see you soon ...