1. Manuscript lesson of the Day! The technology of the page. Every page can be thought of as the product of a methodology for communication. Some highly engineered pages are those of glossed books (books with commentary) of the 12th century. Here I'll walk through one. A page from Peter of Lombard's Commentary on the Psalms and
2. In my first tweet, I outlined in green the main text on the page, which is text from Psalm 51. The remaining infrastructure of the page serves the function of keying the glosses (commentary) to that main text. Here I've marked out in purple the space occupied by the glosses. Outlined in purple is all the text in the adjacent column, w
Next up is the technique for letting the reader know which gloss corresponds to which part of the main text. I've outlined here in yellow a word in the main text, which is repeated in the section with the commentary, and underlined. The relevant gloss then follows. Same page. Now in the main text is a yellow box I placed aro
4. This commentary contains words on the main Psalm text by celebrated "auctores" (like "author" in our sense, but...More Importanter? The topic for another thread). So here those names are heavily abbreviated, but they're Augustine and Cassiodorus. Citing your sources, yay! Same page. To the far right of the commentary column are 7 i
5. Little symbols (tie-marks) help the reader then key the commentary to the auctor. So, when you see a graphic symbol in the commentary column, find its nearest twin. That will tell you the person responsible for that particular gloss. Same page. I circled in pink all the places in the commentar
6. We're still not done! Colored initials in the main text indicate the beginning of a new verse from the Psalm. Smaller colored initials of the same words appear in the adjacent commentary column, so the reader knows where commentary on that new verse starts. Same page. I outlined in light blue that initial letter of e
7. Finally, we have a large, red and sparingly pen-flourished initial that indicates the start of the next main text, in this case, Psalm 52. If you'd like to explore this manuscript further, you can do so thanks to the Digital Bodleian, here digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/objects/51e096… Same page. At the very bottom of the page is a large letter
8. What I neglected to mention earlier in the thread is the use of different sizes of script to distinguish the main text from the gloss. So we have, just on this one page, a variety of mechanisms that ease a highly active and complex engagement w the text. They include:
9. Different sizes of script, color coding, placement, symbols to ease cross-reference, a system of abbreviation, and different systems for spacing.
10. And the graphic intelligence of this whole arrangement is made especially clear when one attempts, as I have done, to produce one's own system of reference for breaking down and explicating the components of this page.
11. p.s. just to shout her out bc she is the best: in the fall @Yael_Rice gave a lecture for a class I was teaching, in which she addressed the development of the early design of Qur'an manuscripts, and it's one of the best class lectures I've ever seen. Manuscripts are amazing.

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More from @Sonja_Drimmer

26 Apr
This story is making the rounds, so before anyone gets the wrong idea: no, you cannot issue a medical diagnosis using the "evidence" of a medieval image. Despite the headline, that's not what the researchers here did either. Explanation in the next tweet.

Key paragraph: "Armed with a microscope and a late 12th-century chronicle, Seliger and Koopmans discerned leprotic spots on a man having his legs washed—distinguishing them from corrosion marks on the glass. He could suddenly be matched to the Latin inscription “lepra” beneath."
What fascinates me in this paragraph is the instrumentalizing of the microscope as the authenticating device, conflating the image of a human with the material of the glass, turning the former into a scientific specimen. But that's not what happened here. The conservator didn't
Read 4 tweets
25 Apr

"Inspired by rising literacy rates and advancing technologies, the nineteenth century saw the book transform from a largely hand-made object to a mass-produced product."
Look, the book covers discussed here are lovely; and there's a fascinating story to be told about them. But the narrative here of book production as some linear march of progress is just unbelievable.
"In this new environment the book cover took on added importance: it was no longer merely a functional protection for the pages but instead became a key platform through which to communicate and sell the book."

OH, OK. A photo of me making a silly happy open-mouthed "wow&qu
Read 4 tweets
9 Mar

You can tell me dimensions in cm or inches all day; but nothing compares to this manuscript, which contains two red lines specifying the length & width "of the piece of salmon for the small dish of the ladies owed by...the abbess." More info below. A manuscript page with two columns. Above the first column i
This is the Liber ordinarius of Nivelles, which is digitized fully here:


More information about the manuscript and what a liber ordinarius here: blogs.harvard.edu/houghton/an-ol…
It's common to find in the later Middle Ages MSS that show an interest in real size. For ex, MSS contain representations of the nails w which Christ was nailed to the cross, & they'll have captions vouching that that size of the depicted nails match the size of the actual ones.
Read 8 tweets
29 Jan
Manuscript lesson of the day: anti-theft edition! Here's an inventory of books from St Paul's Cathedral Library, written up in 1458. It is written in the form of a chirograph, with wavy lines at the edge. Explanation in the next tweets. (BL Cotton Charter xiii.2) /1 Photo of the top part of the manuscript. It is a long roll o
Two identical copies were drawn up then cut along the line at the left, each held by a different individual. At a given time, a chaplain would be asked to show this inventory next to its copy for a shelf audit. /2
This helped identify books missing from the shelves. The wavy lines ensure that the copies brought together were those written at the same time & are exact copies. This prevented the chaplain from forging a copy of the inventory which might leave off any books he had stolen. /3
Read 6 tweets
29 Jan
Mark my works, in six months we're going to see at least a few articles by social scientists & proponents of "cultural evolution" <<shudder>> using this dataset as the foundation for articles offering specious arguments about the Greatness of The West.

At least one of those articles will go viral for how racist it is. You heard it here first.
Sigh. *word, not "works," though of course that typo kind of makes me feel like Ozymandias.
Read 4 tweets
27 Jan
Journalists' casting everything in terms of opposing sides is so ignorant, given that the "globalist elite" [yikes, but not surprising] cited by 1 redditor is meant to be the opposite of the "internet dorks" among whom is one who invested 6figs in shares. slate.com/technology/202…
One of the new investment apps for entrants to the market is called "Robinhood," & there's a lot to say here abt the so-called internet dorks who thing of themselves as neo-medieval populists, stealing from that "globalist elite" (antisemitic slur) & reallocating to themselves.
Can I write an article on this? It's the about page for Robinhood. A screenshot of that webpag...
Read 4 tweets

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