Category Archives: Manuscript Descriptions

On Quire Diagrams

I’ve just spent a couple of hours reflecting on my model and methods for producing quire diagrams, trying to work out a way to incorporate a little bit more specific information into them. It seems to me that this could be of use, so I’ve added it here in case it is of interest to anybody. This is very much a work in progress as, as will rapidly be seen, I’m as much throwing out ideas as they arise as proposing a complete system, and this post is ‘more of a question than a comment’, as it were. Any thoughts will of course be greatly appreciated!

There are a lot of different ways in which the collation of a given quire can be represented in a diagram. Some of the varieties are simply aesthetic. The method that I’ve used over the last several years is shown in Figure 1. This represents a regular quire of eight folios formed from four bifolia arrange according to the Rule of Gregory. Technically, this is a diagram of Quire 2 of Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS Lat. 9656 – a copy of the Liber Papiensis dating to the third-quarter of the eleventh century – although the collation here is so regular it could have come from many other manuscripts.

ParisLat9656_Q2

Figure 1: Paris, MS Lat. 9656, Quire 2 (fols 9-16)

The diagram is relatively straight forward, I think. It has one box per folio, with the number of the folio given in a large font in the centre at the top of the box and an ‘h’ and ‘f’ in the lower corners to signal which side of the folio is the hair-side of the parchment and which the flesh. (I’ve not yet had the pleasure of working with a laterally split piece of parchment, but imagine that if/when I do I will then use an ‘s’ to show the split side). The series of bracketed lines underneath, of course, represent the spine of the quire and show which folios are connected as bifolia (in this case all), and can also be adapted to show half-sheets and so forth. Figure 2 shows the final quire from the same manuscript (Quire 15), which now comprises three bifolia and a half-sheet, as the final folio has since been lost

ParisLat9656_Q15

Figure 2: Paris, MS Lat. 9656, Quire 15 (fols 109-115)

The ‘blocky’ approach I’ve used may be slightly ungainly, but on the one hand I find it takes less space than employing a series of stacked ‘v’ shapes while conveying the same information, and on the other hand, it is very easy to create using the ubiquitous table tool in word processing software. As an aside, having had some formatting issues when submitting quire diagrams for publication, I tend to use a screen-shot of the diagram rather than the original tabulated form.

My uncritical impression of other quire diagrams that I’ve seen over the years is that including the hair-side and the flesh-side is not the norm, but I’ve found it to be rather useful – especially when a quire turns up that has one or more folios disrupting the overall pattern. I made the decision to include information on the hair-side and flesh-side directly on the quire diagrams at some point during my PhD (2006-2010), and apart from the odd troublesome, well-scraped and heavily abraded folio where it was near impossible to determine which side was which by look or feel, have not regretted it yet!

What I am debating at the moment, is a clear way to incorporate more information about the quire formation, specifically it’s pricking and ruling, into the diagram. The main pieces of information that I want to add are which side of the parchment was the pricking made from for each folio, which side was the ruling made from (assuming it is in hard-point, that is scored into the parchment with the back of a knife or similar tool), and is the ruling grid cut directly or is it the imprint of another grid from within the quire? If a quire has two or more ruling grids cut into it, how might this be simply represented?

Turning attention back to Paris, MS Lat. 9656, the specific information for Quire 2 may be summarised as:

  • All the pricking is made from the verso of the quire, with the same shape for the column of prick-marks throughout. (This means that all folios must have been pricked simultaneously, with the quire closed and laying face down on the table).
  • All folios are ruled from the hair-side of the parchment.
  • The bifolia comprising fols 9:16 and 11:14 are ruled for 42 long-lines in a single column with double vertical bounding lines at the inner and outer edges, and
    • The ruling grid on fols 11:14 is a direct imprint of that on fols 9:16, indicating that the two bifolia were ruled simultaneously with fols 9:16 on top and fols 11:14 underneath.
  • The bifolia comprising fols 10:15 and the centrefold fols 12:13 have a different ruling grid, with 40 long-lines per page, again arranged in a single column with double vertical bounding lines at the inner and outer edges, and
    • The ruling grid on fols 10:15 is a direct imprint of that on fols 12:13, again indicating that they must have been ruled as a stacked pair.

The current plan that I have for representing this additional information is to add two additional lines into the boxes representing the folios. I’ve experimented with a few positioning of these, and found that having the line for the pricking above that for the ‘h’/’f’ and having the line for the ruling information below works rather well. Having both above or below makes the diagram feel crowded and unbalanced. In addition to being an aesthetic point, this also impacts on the diagrams legibility and therefore its overall convenience and ease of use. I’m currently using a dagger symbol ‘†’ to mark which side of the parchment the pricking has been made from – in the case of Paris, MS Lat. 9656 Quire 2, that is from the verso on each folio, so as can be seen in Figure 3, these symbols have been added to the right-hand side of the box, immediately above the ‘h’ or ‘f’ indicator, depending on the folio in question.

ParisLat9656_Q2_expanded

Figure 3: Paris, MS Lat. 9656, Quire 2 (fols 9-16) with pricking and ruling summary

In the case of the ruling information, it does not seem possible to include every piece of information here. I have opted to use arrow symbols, again put in the area of the box reflecting the side of the parchment from which it has been made. As the arrows are directional, it seemed useful to make them point in the direction that the ruling goes as well, although this is repeating information which can already be deduced form their location on the diagram. I am currently using a double arrow to indicate where the ruling was cut directly into the parchment, ◄◄, and a single arrow for if it is an imprint, ◄. To indicate that there are two different ruling grids in play, I have added numbers before the arrows. The same could be done with the pricking if necessary, as may be seen in Figure 4, which uses this system to incorporate the pricking and ruling information of Quire 15.

ParisLat9656_Q15_expanded

Figure 4: Paris, MS Lat. 9656, Quire 15 (fols 109-115) with pricking and ruling summary

Quire 15, as can hopefully be read from this diagram, has been pricked in two sets, the first four folios from their rectos, and the last three from their versos. It would appear then that, unlike Quire 2, this one was pricked open and face down on the table. As afar as I can tell, the ruling was performed on the entire stack simultaneously, with the outer folio (probably originally a bifolium) being the one which was cut, and the others then being imprints. (This is a preliminary observation, however, and it may be that two sets of ruling lines have been cut – I need to return to the archive and double check this at some point…). As all are ruled from the hair-side, the parchment must have been re-arranged after the pricking had been added but before being ruled (so that the hair-side was facing up in all instances). After this, the parchment must have been re-ordered once more to re-introduce the rule of Gregory in the alignment of hair-side of parchment to hair-side and flesh-side to flesh, across each of the quire’s openings.

There are obviously still teething issues with this method for incorporating more information into the quire diagrams. The ruling of the grids by bifolia does not seem to me to be overly apparent, and I wonder if changing the numbering to ‘1a’ and ‘1b’ for the grids would clarify that, so it can be seen that these are two halves of one larger ruling grid, and not simply two iterations of the same half. That would increase the amount of text in the box, however, and I am wary of making the diagrams more crowded than they already are. Likewise, if each separate grid were given its own continuous number throughout a given manuscript, then the box could become very crowded. As such, I think it is more convenient to begin the numbering again for each quire, but that then might be taken to imply that the ruling grid in different quires was literally identical.

I shall keep reflecting on this, and see where it goes.

 

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Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS 413

Madrid Biblioteca Nacional

Main entrance to the Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid

 

Over the last two months I’ve been on a number of manuscript viewing, research trips, in Modena, Vercelli, the Vatican, Paris and now Madrid. Undertaking manuscript viewings is definitely one of the more exciting and rewarding parts of being a codicologist, even though a few days with a manuscript (and ongoing work with photographs, ideally) can result in months or years of analysis, writing up and musing. In this post, I want to outline some first thoughts on Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS 413, which I spent a day with earlier this week. My main focus here will be on some features of the pricking and ruling strategies employed in the manuscript, as these caught my interest, and revealed an approach I’ve not personally seen before. Before turning to the pricking and ruling, though, it may first be useful to say a bit about the manuscript itself.

Madrid, MS 413 is a tenth-century copy of the Lombard laws produced in Southern Italy, probably in Benevento or Salerno. In addition to the usual collection of laws, from Rothari’s Edictus of 643 CE through to the additions of Aistulph in 750 CE, it also includes some of the Lombard legislation from after the Carolingian conquest of northern Italy, with a rubric and illumination for Arechis followed by the prologue and laws for Adelchis. I did make some mention of this manuscript in a previous post, discussing the hair-side and flesh-side of parchments, but that was before I had seen the manuscript in person, and was primarily because the photos of it on the Biblioteca Nacional website were on a CC license. On that note of CC manuscript images, here’s fols 156v and 157r, with the end of the laws of Aistulph, the illumination of Arechis, and the start of Adelchis’ prologue – a triple ‘A’ spread!

 

Madrid413_156v_157r

Madrid, MS 413, fols 156v & 157r

It is a lovely manuscript (aren’t they all?!) of reasonably portable size, with 162 folios measuring some 259 mm x 169 mm. However, it does seem to have been trimmed quite significantly during binding, so may originally have been a bit larger. An ownership mark, in the name of the Jurist Marino Freccia, and dated to 1534 is trimmed from the upper margin of fol. 2v, which provides a convenient terminus post quem for when the trimming and binding must have occurred. within the manuscript itself, a lot of the outer faces of quires are relatively more abraded than the folios within the quires, which may even suggest that the ‘book’ was instead used as a pile of unbound quires for a while. This is just idle speculation at the moment, though, and I need to ruminate on it a bit more. But it is far from an uncommon approach.

The manuscript, then, has some intriguing codicological features that need to be considered. I spent Monday examining it and taking notes in the National Library, and have somehow managed to write up a draft catalogue description of it for my Manuscripts of the Lombard Laws page, already. (Or the PDF of the first draft of the description can now be downloaded directly from here, if you are interested). Just as with my previous project, I shall be uploading the draft descriptions of all the manuscripts I work with onto that page of my website, and have slowly started adding in other manuscripts that I’m not working with (yet), to try and make it a complete resource. Hopefully, the descriptions may be of use to somebody, and of course any feedback or comments are greatly welcome.

As I was going through the manuscript, it quickly became apparent that the prick-marks – that is, the small holes used to guide the positioning of the ruling grid for laying out the mise-en-page of the manuscript – only had an erratic survival. Sometimes there would be a couple of folios in a row with prick-marks, only for half a dozen to pass without any sign at all. Taking a step back and considering their positions in relation to the collation of the quires, it on became apparent that the prick-marks where only surviving on the outer bifolium of any given quire.

Erratic survival of the prick-marks is nothing new, of course, especially for a manuscript which has been heavily trimmed, such as Madrid, MS 413. The possibility has to be entertained that this survival pattern was an artefact of the trimming process. Consider, four bifolia of effectively equal dimensions arranged in a quire. When the quire is closed along its folded spine, the outer edge of each bifolium protrudes a little further than the edges of the bifolium outside it. The central bifolium, then, sticks out the most, while the outermost when the least. When the manuscript is trimmed, presumably, the person doing the trimming still wants to keep as much of the folio size as possible, and allowing a little leeway for straightening the edges in the process, that outermost bifolium would form the lowest common denominator for the trimming, and the protruding bits of the inner bifolia would be the ones to get the chop. As such, the inner bifolia would have a greater chance of losing their prick-marks relative to the outer bifolium. And in some of the quires, the surviving prick-marks are so close to the very edge of the parchment, that this could be a compelling interpretation.

Except, there are a number of quires where the prick-marks are at 10-15 mm from the edge. And the same pattern can still be seen. There is no way, then, that the presence of prick-marks only on the outer bifolium can be an artefact of their survival, and instead it would appear that this is a direct reflection of the production practice. Pricking of quires, at least as I have normally encountered it, is usually performed on the whole quire simultaneously as a closed booklet. Using the tip of a knife, an awl or something similarly sharp, small and pointy, the person assembling the quire then stabs the whole pile at once. In this way, the same pattern is present on every folio, and moreover is mirrored across the openings of any two adjacent folios. Examination of the prick-marks on the parchment can often directly confirm this, with the shape of the hole showing that the blade came from the same direction for each. In Madrid, MS 413 the prick marks on the first and last folios of each quire are always from the recto. This means that, again, the bifolium was closed along the central fold of its spine when it was pricked, but that the inner bifolia (three in most cases) must have been removed at that point.

Having the prick marks on every single bifolium, means that each bifolium can be individually ruled. Having the prick marks only on the outer bifolium means that they cannot. Examination of the ruling grid of Madrid, MS 413 reveals that the ruling lines have in fact only been cut into the outer bifolium with the pricking. This was done with the bifolium spread open and lying face down, as can be confirmed from the ruled lines being cut from the recto on the first folio of each quire, and from the verso of the last folio. As this bifolium was, by this point, reunited with the other bifolia of the quire and was stacked on top of them, the imprint of the ruling grid was then transferred through the entire group at once. This can again be confirmed by examining the materials of each quire, where it can be seen that each imprint is fainter than the one before, with the lines on the central bifolium often being so faint as to be almost imperceptible.

Removing the outer bifolium of each quire to prick it, then reassembling the quire once more, is hardly the easiest way of creating the layout. It introduces additional steps, rather than removing them, so it would seem that laziness/efficiency was probably not the motivating factor. The actual reason is something which evades me, and at the moment I am throwing out ideas and mulling over them. did the scribe have a weak hand, and found that pricking through a stack of eight folios was a little too much effort, while two was manageable? If that was so, this must have been something they knew before beginning the book project, rather than discovered as they went along, as the lack of prick-marks in the inner bifolia of quires is present (or absent, even) from the start. Did the scribe in fact prick a stack of bifolia, but then separate that stack and redistribute them one per quire? On the one hand, this would ensure the identical pricking and ruling patterns across much more of the manuscript, and in Madrid, MS 413 the grids are rather consistent. That effect can also be achieved by using the pricking pattern from a previous quire as a guide for the next, although that sometimes leaves at least a few tell-tale signs where a hole has been re-cut. From what I saw, that was not present in this case, although already I am thinking I may need to go back for another viewing to double check that. If you have seen a pricking pattern like the one I’ve described here, and/or have any thoughts, please do leave a comment or send me a message. For me it’s very much a novelty, but I doubt that it is completely unique!

The work on Madrid, MS 413 then, is really still in its early stages – as is the work with all the other manuscripts on this project. I still have three more of the nine from this project to go and see in person, but the research in archives phase is well under way. For the Madrid manuscript it is nice to be reflecting on it, while still in the same city (my flight back to Vienna is later today). There is a lot to ruminate on, for which this intriguing pattern with the pricking is but the first, the ruling grid in the final quire is another intriguing oddity for instance. But that is a subject for another time.

Revising the Description of Florence, BML, MS Plut. 89 sup 86

I’ve spent a few days this week revising and correcting my description of Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana MS 89 Plut. 86 which I studied and described as part of my FWF Lise-Meitner project (my end of project blogpost from May can be found here). I acknowledged in March when I uploaded the descriptions that they were drafts, reasonably good, I hoped, but that I would polish and replace each in short order, as required. I’d expected that phase to come some throughout the summer, but time, tide and the writing of the next research proposal and monographs wait for no one. Winter is already drawing in and, so far, I’ve only revised one of the manuscripts. The finalised description of the Florence manuscript and the other drafts can be found on the main portal on this website. The other manuscripts will get revised as and when I get the chance. Hopefully most of the others won’t require as much work as this one did!

It’s quite common in research to only publish successful findings, while errors and wrong directions get swept quietly under the rug. Perhaps they get aired with friends, or at a departmental seminar, but they’re rarely made public. It’s also becoming more common to note that this is not actually a good response. On the one hand, it curates an impression of researchers as infallible that can be down-right disheartening if you compare all your own errors with everybody else’s apparent stream of perpetual successes. On the other hand, sharing and talking through some of those mistakes may be useful for others engaged in similar research or for clarifying a methodology if a similar situation is encountered again. So, in the spirit of comradeship and usefulness, here’s an outline list and commentary of some of the errors I made in my original draft description of the Florence manuscript of the Liber Papiensis and how/why I corrected them. Conveniently, by going through the emendations and alterations in the order they appear in the description, I get to leave the biggest to last.

I should also note that, despite the issues, I have been using these descriptions as a working tool. I’m currently in the process of writing the first draft of my chapter on the materiality of the Liber Papiensis manuscripts, and am currently focusing on the various strategies taken to pricking and ruling the quires and producing the ruling grid. Through the process of writing up a prose description, which is a detailed form of analysis in itself, some of the major errors were revealed. Other errors came to light simply from having put nine months between writing them and re-reading them (not to mention over two years from first taking the notes on which the descriptions were based in a fortnight of manuscript handling in Florence in August 2014).

The first error is an invisible one from the outside, and arose from bad data management. Oh, I’ll make excuses about a hard-drive having burnt out, and a laptop having died between then and now, but that’s really no excuse. When I went to try and find the .doc of the description I discovered it was… gone. All I could find was an early draft from 2015, which had only about quarter of the information. Thankfully, I had the pdf from the website, and was able to cut and paste a lot of the information back into a word file, and reformatting most of it wasn’t too bad. Apart from the tables and diagrams in the appendices, those required a bit more effort. I’ll come back to the actual contents of the table of ruling grids in due course.

The next error is an issue of naming.  I raised this in my blog post from May of this year, when the funded period of my postdoc came to an end. From the outset of my project, I’d referred to the collected text of the Lombard Laws and Frankish and Saxon capitularies as the Liber legis langobardorum rather than the alternate title, the Liber Papiensis, by which it is also known. I opted for the former, having read in the scholarship that this was attested in the manuscripts (I don’t have the reference to hand at the moment, unfortunately). Conversely, the name the Liber Papiensis is modern, a convention adopted in the mid-nineteenth century when the laws were edited for volume IV of the Leges series of the Monumenta Germiniae Historica. All very good, except that the manuscript attestation of the Liber legis langobardorum only survives on other versions of the laws, whether the Edictus or the twelfth-century re-systemisation of the Lombarda. As I said, this wasn’t a newly-discovered error of the last week, but a long-standing correction that has been lingering on the to do list for months.

The next error was actually the last I discovered, floating to the surface of that golden-haze moment when I thought the corrections were finalised, I re-made the pdf, sent a copy to the printer and then went to collect it. My eye glanced down to the front page and took in the opening sentence of the manuscript’s summary, which I reproduce here verbatim for your amusement:

“A distinctly decorated manuscript of relatively portable size, with numerous line-drawn initials with foliate and knot-work features and highlighting in red-ink.”

What on earth, I asked myself, does ‘distinctly decorated’ mean? It reads like one of subjectively vague description of palaeographic hands, when some scribe is described as elegant, dramatic, crowded, untutored or whatever. an expression that means everything (to the describer, perhaps) and nothing (to the bemused reader). I certainly agree with my former self in that the Florence manuscript is relatively more decorated than most of the other surviving copies of the Liber Papiensis dating to the eleventh and early twelfth centuries. (The two volumes of the copy of the Liber Papiensis now held in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan MSS O 53 sup and O 55 sup, are even more decorative than the Florence manuscript, in that there are animalistic and anthropomorphic elements to the initials, and a wider range of coloured inks are also used. Meanwhile, the copy in the British Library, London, MS Add. 5411 has a half-page line-drawing of an enthroned Charlemagne flanked by two dapper retainers at the start of the capitularies. I digress from my subject here, though). But still, what does ‘distinctly decorated’ really mean? The latter part of the sentence covers it I think, as it emphasises the foliate and know work construction of the line-drawn initials used to introduce new clauses. Conveniently, a cleaner opening sentence to the summary description of the manuscript can be produced simply by removing those two offending words, and increasing rather than losing meaning in the process: “A manuscript of relatively portable size, with numerous line-drawn initials with foliate and knot-work features and highlighting in red-ink”.

The main area that needed correcting, however, was the table of ruling grids. As can be seen from the quire diagram (which, apart form having been remade as I couldn’t cut and paste it from my pdf, remains the same), there are only two atypical quires in the manuscript, the first and the last. Quire 1 has a folio added at some later point, while Quire 17 was produced from the outset from five bifolia rather than the more regular four. Apart from that later, additional folio at the start of the manuscript, the scribe made no use of half-sheets (or singletons if you prefer) and every folio is one side of a complete bifolium. Moreover, every ruling grid throughout the manuscript has through-lines that extend through the central spine of the bifolium. As such it can be confirmed that both sides of each bifolium were ruled simultaneously as one large, open sheet. This is not unusual, of course. But my tabulation of the ruling grids described them by folio, effectively treating each half as an independent block. Perhaps that is not painfully problematic, but it jarred with me when I was trying to use the description as raw data to write my section on the pricking and ruling of the manuscript. So, I decided to revise it. And there I found another set of errors.

Examination of the photos of the manuscript available online from the BML revealed that a notable number of the extenders and through-lines I’d recorded by folio back in 2014 didn’t always match the images. Now many of the ruling lines are faint and often difficult to discern, and my notes from the library frequently mentioned this. But comparing the two revealed a much different pattern. My impression before had been that each bifolium had been ruled individually, and where two ruling grids appeared to be roughly the same it was in most cases chance rather than design or an artefact of the scribe’s working practice. Reviewing the data revealed a significantly large number of adjacent bifolia with paired ruling grids, and sometimes where there were still differences between them there was enough evidence to support a strong hunch that the difference was because some lines on one were too faint to notice. It seemed that the regularly (if not exclusively) employed pattern was to rule the bifolia stacked simultaneously in stacked pairs.

Revising that error took the better part of the three days. It was definitely worth it. Moreover, I also uncovered in the process some further evidence that did not quite fit that model: Suggestions of the ruling grid sometimes having been produced in two phases. However, that reaches beyond the requirements of describing the manuscript, and brings me back to the interpretation of how the scribe physically produced the manuscript, a further insight into the material praxis of their book culture. As such undertaking corrections to my previous work, some of which I have been a touch embarrassed to confess to and type up, has brought me full circle to the activity that allowed me to spot the errors in the first place. I’ll save further discussion for the monograph, but suffice to say it’s peeled back another layer of the obfuscating mist that lies between us, looking on in the modern day, and the minutiae of activity of the otherwise unknown scribe who made this delightful and intriguing manuscript of laws, capitularies and related text in the last decades of the eleventh century.

 


Oh, and I’ve also made multiple back-ups of the revised files 🙂