Friday, June 1, 2012

On Manuscripts and Love

So far this summer, one of my projects has been dealing with manuscripts. Specifically, I've returned to a project I started for a paper on St. Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 1395, which is described and digitized online here. I had begun by looking at the biblical materials and their paratexts (especially peritexts) to consider how scribes interacted with the Bible in the early medieval period--all of the fragments in this collection are Continental, from between the fifth and tenth centuries. The overall project is much too large for right now (I hope to go back it again sometime), but I've returned to a specific part of this collection that has been largely overlooked--a text of Colossians with glossing in the margins--for a shorter piece that describes and offers a transcription of the fragment.

I've been puzzling over the fragment, transcribing the text and glosses, and trying to brush up on my paleography skills to be able to discuss the texts, the scripts, and compare them to others. What I (re)discover every time I start working with manuscripts is that, despite having experience in various seminars, the only way to understand them is actually to do it: to be immersed, to explore. I have (as seen in the picture) a stack of books on paleography (Lindsay, Lowe, Bischoff, Brown, etc.), along with a hoard of articles from ILL, and I spent much of yesterday looking through plates in the Codices latini antiqiuores and other resources to get a handle on Insular minuscule and its various traits. I've also spent a lot of time with digital descriptions and images on the e-codices: Virtual Manuscript Library of Switzerland website--a fantastic resource for medievalists.

And I've remembered how much I love looking at, pouring through, and working with manuscripts (even if only in facsimile, digital or otherwise). As monuments of the past, they are beautiful, frustrating, curious, riddling, and screaming at us from every page to pay attention to their idiosyncrasies. So I've been trying to pay attention. And I'm hoping to continue.

1 comment:

theswain said...

Amen. Whenever I feel discouraged in this field, I return to a manuscript. That sets the world right again and reminds me of all that I love in this field.