On May 25, Curator Dot Porter brought out LJS 361, which is a sandwich containing commentaries on gospel and epistle readings nestled between two layers of astronomical and astrological tables.
This manuscript is like a gift that keeps on giving. It starts on the outside, with the original binding, leather over heavy wooden boards. There’s no covering on the spine, so the structure is fully visible. One of the straps that used to hold the book closed is missing and the other one isn’t functional, the leather is very worn, and the metal tacks that hold the binding together have rusted. It’s messy, but you still get a sense of how the book appeared when it was first made.
The entire manuscript, both the tables and the commentaries, were copied by a single scribe. We don’t know his name – it was written in the book, but erased sometime later – but we know he was a Dominican monk at the convent in Naples, and also a student at the University of Naples. He could have written the texts as part of his university studies. The astronomical tables focus on calculating dates that are important for the church year, including tables for calculating the the Sunday letter from 1204 to 1736, the golden letter from 1215 to 1728, and moveable feasts such as Easter. There are also several astrological tables, including lists of human activities and how they are affected by the moon and planets; parts of the body with the planet that dominates each part and appropriate medical activities; parts of the body with the zodiac sign that dominates each part and appropriate medical activities (aka the Zodiac Man, only in table form); and a list of the power and virtues of the signs of the zodiac on the parts of the body, regions, plants, stones, and stars.
The central part of the manuscript is fairly straightforward, including a few quires of commentaries on gospel and epistle readings. One notable feature is the fact that several quires are missing – according to the list of contents on the front pastedown and flyleaf (in the same hand as the rest of the manuscript) there would have originally be several more quires of commentaries, totaling 152 leaves (the manuscript now has 46 leaves).
A second notable feature is the three doodles on f. 23, 24, and 26. These are delightful, and recent research suggests that they were drawn by small children (younger than 12 years old), and that they may illustrate aspects of the text. Read the article by Deborah Ellen Thorpe here; it’s fascinating.
There’s much more about these books in the Coffee With A Codex recording, which you can find here.
You can also read the record in Franklin, which links out to digitized copies:
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