Friday, March 23, 2012

Medieval Musings in the Margins


The brainpickings blog lists a number of curious notes in margins and colophons made by medieval scribes (originally from the Spring 2012 issue of Lapham’s Quarterly:

"New parchment, bad ink; I say nothing more.

"I am very cold."

"That's a hard page and a weary work to read it."

"Let the reader's voice honor the writer's pen."

"This page has not been written very slowly."

"The parchment is hairy."

"The ink is thin."

"Thank God, it will soon be dark."

"Oh, my hand."

"Now I've written the whole thing; for Christ's sake give me a drink."

"Writing is excessive drudgery. It crooks your back, it dims you sight, it twists your stomach and your sides."

"St. Patrick of Armagh, deliver me from writing."

"While I wrote I froze, and what I could not write by the beams of the sun I finished by candlelight."

"As the harbor is welcome to the sailor, so is the last line to the scribe."

"This is sad! O little book! A day will come in truth when someone over your page will say, 'The hand that wrote it is no more'."

Cf. the nice little directions for use in Greg.-Aland 1030.

Do you know of any other gems? Share in the comments!

HT: Ingrid Lilly


  1. It is a pity that none of these are documented.

  2. It would appear that the Orthodox standard for hagiolatry was pretty low, if Theophilos Iviritis The Unfortunate was the sort of person whom the faithful are invited to venerate:

    "Pray for my wretched self, who is responsible for a thousand wicked deeds and is unworthy of either heaven or earth."

  3. Actually it is quite normal in colophons for a scribe to be extremely self-deprecating (mostly as a "poor sinner" or the like).

  4. "Now I've written the whole thing; for Christ's sake give me a drink."

    Is it safe to conclude from the inherent chronology of this scholium that drunken transcription wasn't allowed? Has anyone done a study on the potential effects of inebriation on scribal accuracy and penmanship?

  5. Reminds me of that gem in the margins of Codex Vaticanus at Hebrews 1:3.

  6. In addition to my previous comment. @Peter a number of the marginalia mentioned in the post are also referenced by Bruce Metzger in The Text of the New Testament (4th ed revised by Bart Ehrman), 2005 on pages 29, 31-33. However, there also the origin of only a limited number is documented in the notes. See further Kim Haines-Eitzen, Guardians of Letters. Oxford, 2000, pp. 53, 153 n.2.