Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dating MSS by Vellum Color

Some brief notes are recorded here for the assistance of palaeographers:


1. Switzerland: New Testament ( Testamentum Novum, cum Glossis Bedae, Hieronymi, et Gregorii).
Early XIIth Century. Latin Text; Revised Carolingian Script.
John 19.7-12, recto; John 19:12-19, verso.
... interlinear glosses and commentaries from the writings of Bede, Jerome, Gregory and other Church Fathers. These were inserted at various times during the following century around a central panel of the original text. All hands based on revival of early Carolingian minuscule. the beginning of the trend to compactness and angularity is seen in many of these later additions. 

'The colour and texture of the vellum is frequently an aid in allocating a manuscript to a certain district and time. The XIIIth century skins are often yellower than those of later dates as the result of the fact that a weaker lime-water solution was used in the bleaching process.'

3. Italy: Lectionary (Lectionarium; Secundam Lucam)
Middle XIIth Century, Latin Text; Revised Carolingian Script

A Lectionary contains selected readings from the Epistles and Gospels as well as the Acts of the Saint and the Lives of the Martyrs. These were read by the sub-deacon from a side pulpit. This practice necessitated that they be written in a separate volume, apart from the complete Missal. This fine large bookhand shown here, suited to easier reading in a dark cathedral, is a revival of the script developed nearly four centuries earlier in scriptoria founded by Charlemagne. Maunde Thomson calls this Lombardic revival the finest of all European bookhands. Even the XVth century humanistic scribes could not surpass it for beauty and eligibility.
The tone or hue of ink frequently helps allocate a manuscript to a particular district or century. Ink of brown tone is generally found in early manuscripts, less frequently after 1200 A.D.

"The quills used in writing were obtained from the wings of crows, wild geese, and eagles. To keep them sharp and their strokes of uniform width required skill and great sensitivity in hand pressure. It would be difficult to imitate or approximate the fine details even with the special steel lettering pens of today."


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