This manuscript dates to circa 14th century, based on the script (a Gothic book-hand), and the composition of the actual text.
The volume was catalogued in our system with the note “Bound in a leaf from a medieval Latin ms. (paragraph marks supplied in alternating red and blue, and capital strokes supplied in red) of a religious text on purgatory; over paper boards.” Even without the acknowledging the script, a text referring to purgatory gives us a place to start, as the word purgatorium is believed to have first appeared in the 12th century.
It’s hard not to have favorites when working in a special collections setting. While searching through our incunabula, I found one bound in a manuscript that I had not seen previously. This particular wrapper has now become one of my favorite items in the collection, and one that I intend to continue researching when time and other duties allow.
Remember all the way back in January – the first #MedievalMonday post – when we met Z10 76 (Constantinus Africanus’ Viaticum), and that I mentioned it was the oldest thing in our collection until a few weeks ago? Well, this week, we will meet the oldest thing in our collection. It’s a binding.
Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as ‘manuscript waste.’ To us, several hundred years later, it seems a horrible thing. However, it was common practice for early bookbinders to cut up and use pages from unwanted manuscripts as binding material. These pages were sturdy and were used for paste-downs, wrappers (covers), spine-linings, or gathering reinforcements. Not only did the practice essentially recycle texts that were outdated, damaged, or for some other reason, no longer used, it also gives us an opportunity to get a glimpse into the history of a specific text’s use. If we think about it, it’s not too much different than how we treat old newspapers today: as decoupage, potty-training mats for puppies, packing material, etc., etc., etc.