Over the past few months, we’ve looked at various parts of medieval manuscripts – catchwords, ink (here and here), illuminations (here, here, and here), etc., etc. Today we are going to look at the script of 10a 210 (Arnald of Villanova’s Regimen sanitatis ad regem Aragonum).
Paleography is the study of historical handwriting. The script is the style of handwriting, while hand refers to an individual scribe’s style of writing. The script of a medieval manuscript can help in dating its creation. Rather than list all the terms associated with paleography, and try to summarize the history of western scripts, I’m adding an extended sources/further reading section at the end of this post.
Last week we went back in time to read about a researcher’s experience with 10a 189, de Argenta’s De fructibus. Mentioned briefly were the illuminations on folio 1r; this week we’ll look at the decorated initial in more detail, and later this month, talk about the inks used in the coat of arms.
The idea of a table of contents or index is not a new one; in fact, even early Greek papyri contained sections and often lists of items. In 10a 159, a 15th century Italian manuscript which includes Macer Floridus’ De virtutibus herbarum, the section headings are listed in the back of the volume.
Dating medieval manuscripts can be tricky, as many of them aren’t dated by the scribe, nor do we know who the scribes were. However, 10a 159, Macer Floridus’ De Virtutibus Herbarum, has both a date and a name. We even know approximately how long it took our scribe to complete each section!
Just like modern-day scholars have trouble reading some texts in medieval manuscripts because the handwriting is poor or sloppy; water-damaged, flaking, or torn; in a difficult dialect; or highly abbreviated, so too did medieval scribes. Texts were copied from an exemplar, and it was not uncommon for slight changes to exist among copies from the same manuscript. This could be due to line-skipping, the inability to read a word, or numerous other reasons.