Thursday, February 13, 2014

Question about a minuscule binding

Greetings friends,

My palaeography/TC class has been assigned a GSI MS this semester, and we are having a lot of fun working on it.  It is an early minuscule, extant only in 9 leaves.

We are working on trying to explain why the 9 leaves are separate.  There is not a single double fold, though there are two sets of two leaves that are connected by use of a reinforcement.  In addition, one of the single leaves has a strip of parchment (contiguous with it) surviving on the other side of the hinge.

The leaves come from Mt, Mk, and Jn, and there is (later) numbering that implies around 400 sides (every recto and verso has a number), so it must have been a complete four Gospel codex at some point.  If single folia were joined with strips of parchment, that would have been terribly bulky in the binding, wouldn't it?  Does any of you know of a codex which may have consisted entirely of single folia?    

There are also no gathering numbers on the upper or lower corners, in other words very little evidence that this codex ever had gatherings (though it may simply be that none of the first or last sides of a gathering survived among the nine).

Or, on the other hand, Hugh suggests that a normally produced codex was at some point torn apart into single leaves to repair another?

Does anyone know of another situation like this or have any suggestions as to how this situation may have come about?

Glad for shared experience or ideas.



  1. Amy!
    You've figured out how to post. Brilliant. Welcome.

  2. What are the edges like? Plenty of booksellers cut up manuscripts into smaller units for sale.

  3. Amy, I've given your post a title.

  4. Amy,

    Is there a pattern to the position of these pages, relative to where they would originally be in a complete MS? That is, do they tend to come from near the beginning, or near the end, of the books?

    James Snapp, Jr.

  5. I agree with Dr. Head that they must have been cut-up by a bookseller. If I understand correctly, this was a very common practice up into the early 20th century. Also, booksellers would re-bind the manuscripts and then trim the edges of the pages in order to even them out. It is possible that the gathering numbers were cut away at some stage in this fashion. I say all of this because I have a 13th century parchment Latin Vulgate leaf that has been cutaway from the other half of the corresponding codex page. All of the edges are trimmed way down as I described above, which has cut away part of the running title to 2 Corinthians in the upper margin.
    Just some thoughts from a non-expert :)

  6. Thanks for the welcome, Peter. What did it take me, five years or so? :-)

    The three outer edges are straight with the corners rounded by wear. This rounding does touch the edges of some kephalaia, so it is possible there were gathering numbers in the actual corners that are now gone.

    The binding-side edges could have been cut, I suppose, but to me they look more like they were torn. The leaf that is still clinging onto its opposing side seems to negate the idea that they were cut out, but maybe?

    James, I don't have the contents here at home with me, but if I remember correctly, they come from mid-Matthew, mid-Mark, and both mid and late John. Not the first or last pages in any case.

    Two of the Matthew folios that are now sewn/pasted together are continuous text, the other two are missing a folio that should be between them.

    If I figure out how, maybe I can take some screen shots and show you the physical attributes that I've been trying to describe without compromising the promise to keep the text private until publication.

  7. So, is there a way to post screen shots?

  8. Yes, when you are in the editing mode for blogger you click on the small photo (next to Link) and that opens a dialogue box which helps you upload a photo.

  9. I tried, Peter, but created a new post. Tell me what I should do now. :-)

  10. I've just copied the pictures over to this post.

  11. Is there anything in the pages to suggest that they come from an illustrated MS?

    James Snapp, Jr.

  12. Thanks Peter. James, no sign of illuminations or headpieces. All we have is text and some decorated initial letters.

    So does anyone have any further ideas? Shall we just describe the situation and not try to interpret it?