Not all manuscripts are pristine

And that’s okay.

I recently handled Poole 19 at the Lilly Library.  This manuscript is in rough shape and beautiful.  As always please click on the image to see it better and to get more explanation about it.  Letter x height in this book is consistently 3mm. You can use that as a way to gain perspective of the size of the work you are seeing.

IMAG0418

Remember clicking on the picture will give you much more information than if you just skim through this post.  I put things this way so that people who just wanted to get a quick jist of things could and those who wanted more details and information would get what they wanted as well.

As we move on through the book we see

Used another manuscript piece to hold this one together

Used another manuscript piece to hold this one together

A common practice to cannibalize one manuscript to fix another one.

And then there are pests that literally eat the book!

Damage caused by book worms after repairs were made.

Damage caused by book worms after repairs were made.

And then there is human damage

Human damage can be even more devastating than critters

Human damage can be even more devastating than critters

Of course books wear out over time but that too is caused by humans.  And sometimes the damage shows up in the darnedest places.

Tear and/or break near the inside margin.

Tear and/or break near the inside margin.

And stains can be found on many pages of the manuscript as well.

One of many reasons to keep your hands clean when handling manuscripts

One of many reasons to keep your hands clean when handling manuscripts

Yes, indeed this manuscript is in pretty rough shape.  And yet here I am telling you that, that is okay.  Medieval manuscripts are old and on average they are going to be worn out.  That means that they were treasured, used and loved.  Okay for some of them they were purposefully mangled but often because others treasured them. The fights and destruction of books over history is fascinating unto itself, and a topic for another time.

So what’s to love about this manuscript today?  Well, we should feel respect for the scribe who wrote it, the artist who illuminated it and the binder who put it all together.  We can be thankful to those people over the past 500 or so years who worked diligently to restore it, repair it and bring it along as far as they did.  The beauty of this manuscript is in its survival and the work by those who helped make that happen.  But that isn’t the only beauty in this manuscript.

Check this out.

Faded but beautiful

Faded but beautiful

Take a good close look at it.

Pretty neat stuff when you get the up close.

Pretty neat stuff when you get the up close.

We also find some beautiful calligraphy as well.

Wonderful example of a local Italian script

Wonderful example of a local Italian script

And there are some wonderful capitals as well that are iconic for the time period this manuscript is from.

Capital D in red paint or ink

Capital D in red paint or ink

And we get full pages that one can spend some pleasant time on as well.

Illumination on the upper left of the recto page

Illumination on the upper left of the recto page

And because I know people love looking at the decorations

close up of the knotted or vine decoration

close up of the knotted or vine decoration

We even get a look at how the book was ruled.

Page lining was supposed to be left in and was considered a mark of the high quality of the work.

Page lining was supposed to be left in and was considered a mark of the high quality of the work.

And some fun rubrication to finish off the series of pictures

Etc Maybe.

Etc
Maybe.

So I encourage you to look at the ugly, the torn up, the manuscripts, art, books, works that are torn up and not pristine.  Find the beauty in them for most certainly it exists.  Use them as a way to study how manuscripts were made, repaired and used.  Use them as a way to learn to appreciate the pristine manuscripts in new ways.

As always I hope you are enjoying my blog, please remember to rate the post.

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