The Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at Penn brings manuscript culture, modern technology and people together.


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Manuscript Monday: LJS 393 – Medical commentaries

Dot Porter, Curator, Digital Research Services at the University of Pennsylvania Library, offers a video orientation to Penn Library’s LJS 393, Sharḥ Fusūl Ibuqrāṭ. This manuscript was written in Egypt or Syria, between 1325 and 1375, in Arabic, and it contains medical commentaries, one on the aphorisms of Hippocrates and one on the Questions on medicine for students by Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq, also known as Joannitius.

You can see the full online facsimile of this work in Penn in Hand and you can download all of the images and metadata from OPenn.  You can also download a copy of this video from ScholarlyCommons, the University of Pennsylvania’s open access institutional repository.

 


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Manuscript Monday: LJS 268 – Ptolemy’s Almagest

Dot Porter, Curator, Digital Research Services at the University of Pennsylvania Library, offers a video orientation to Penn Library’s LJS 268, Ptolemy’s Almagest. This manuscript was written by Ptolemy in Spain, in A.H. 783 (1381), in Arabic, and it is an Arabic translation of Ptolemy’s Almagest, an extensive treatise on Aristotelian astronomy, considering the motion of the stars and planets in a spherical, geocentric universe.

You can see the full online facsimile of this work in Penn in Hand and you can download all of the images and metadata from OPenn.  You can also download a copy of this video from ScholarlyCommons, the University of Pennsylvania’s open access institutional repository.

 


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Manuscript Monday: LJS 264 – Image du monde

Dot Porter, Curator, Digital Research Services at the University of Pennsylvania Library, offers a video orientation to Penn Library’s LJS 264, Image du monde. This manuscript was written in France, ca. 1400, in Middle French. It is a summary of all knowledge, divided into 3 parts on the creation of the world and man, geography, and astronomy; copy of the earliest recension in 6,600 octosyllabic lines of verse, as composed in 1245 by Gautier of Metz.

You can see the full online facsimile of this work in Penn in Hand and you can download all of the images and metadata from OPenn.  You can also download a copy of this video from ScholarlyCommons, the University of Pennsylvania’s open access institutional repository.

 


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Manuscript Monday: LJS 234 – Liber phisicorum sive auditus phisici

Dot Porter, Curator, Digital Research Services at the University of Pennsylvania Library, offers a video orientation to Penn Library’s LJS 234,  Liber phisicorum sive auditus phisici, by Albertus Magnus. The manuscript was written in France before 1349, in Latin, and it is a Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics, divided into 8 books.

You can see the full online facsimile of this work in Penn in Hand and you can download all of the images and metadata from OPenn.  You can also download a copy of this video from ScholarlyCommons, the University of Pennsylvania’s open access institutional repository.

 


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Manuscript Monday: LJS 101 – Periermenias Aristotelis

Dot Porter, Curator, Digital Research Services at the University of Pennsylvania Library, offers a video orientation to Penn Library’s LJS 101, Periermenias Aristotelis, by Boethius. This manuscript was written in, France, ca. 850, in Latin, and it is a copy of Boethius’s Latin translation of Aristotle’s De interpretatione, referred to in the manuscript as Periermenias, with the shorter of two commentaries that Boethius wrote on that work.

You can see the full online facsimile of this work in Penn in Hand and you can download all of the images and metadata from OPenn.  You can also download a copy of this video from ScholarlyCommons, the University of Pennsylvania’s open access institutional repository.

 


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Manuscript Monday: LJS 48 – Instrumenta feudorum castri Sone

Dot Porter, Curator, Digital Research Services at the University of Pennsylvania Library, offers a video orientation to Penn Library’s LJS 48, Instrumenta feudorum castri Sone: cum privilegio comitatus in personam Don Ioannis et fratrum ac descendentium de Faelis. This manuscript was written in Verona, 1504-1530, in Latin, and it is notarial copies of decrees and grants relating to Giovanni Faella of Verona and his family, mostly written by imperial notary Francesco di Andrea Ruffo in 1504, with a long addition by imperial notary Alessandro di Nicolo Medico dated 1530.

You can see the full online facsimile of this work in Penn in Hand and you can download all of the images and metadata from OPenn.  You can also download a copy of this video from ScholarlyCommons, the University of Pennsylvania’s open access institutional repository.

 


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Making Iron Gall Ink

Many thanks to Sara Charles, an editor at the Institute of Historical Research and researcher of medieval manuscripts, for this guest post, which is based on a Twitter thread originally published here

 

 

I’m not artistic, crafty or very in tune with nature, but as someone who researches medieval manuscripts, I wanted to experience the process. And surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, give their nature), so did my cat. There is some open ground behind my house, so I went for a forage for some oak galls. I didn’t really know if I would be able to recognise what I was looking for, and it took me a while to find any. But, once I had spotted one, I got my eye in:

 

 

 

Based on my vast experience of one foraging trip, I found them much easier to spot on smaller, younger oak trees. This little one in particular had loads – I got about twelve from it. In less than an hour, I had collected this lot – 123 grams:

 

 

 

At first I was terrified that a wasp would emerge as I was separating a gall from a branch, or I would get swarmed by angry wasp parents, but after a while it all felt lovely and I felt tuned-in to nature and the past. Although I did scream when a dragonfly flew near my face.

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I loosely followed the recipe from Patricia Lovett’s book ‘Tools and Materials for Calligraphy’ (but there are plenty of other recipes – the Iron Gall Ink website is very useful ).

First, the fun part – smashing up the galls. I weighed out 80 grams:

 

 

 

I put them in a clear plastic bag rather than a newspaper, mainly because I wanted to see what was happening. I was still a bit worried about baby wasps, but apparently this did not bother medievalists, they actually preferred the grub still inside:

 

 

 

 

So, after some cathartic smashing and freeing of small insects that crawled out (no grubs, just earwigs) in 5/10 minutes I had this bag of small chunks. I liked Patricia’s recipe because you didn’t have to grind them down into a powder. Then I poured them into a jam-jar:

 

 

 

Most recipes recommend rain water, but it’s been a long dry summer and I think our rainwater is probably more polluted than medieval rain, so I used distilled water (about 300ml). Gave it a quick stir with a lolly stick and then left it on a sunny windowsill for three days:

 

 

 

It went such a lovely deep brown. Next step was adding the ferrous sulphate (50 grams). Also known as copperas or green vitriol. I found this easily on Ebay. Apparently you can make your own with rusty nails, but I really wouldn’t recommend that

 

 

 

The video shows how instantaneous the colour change is. At this stage my cat decided to get involved. NB – now the mixture stains, so mind your fingers. And your cats:

 

 

 

We don’t want a repeat of this: Photo: Emir O. Filipović

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The mixture went a really intense black. Almost blue-black. The cat was forbidden to go near the windowsill. The lolly stick was stained beyond redemption:

 

 

 

Let’s take a moment to stare into the abyss…

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After a few more days, the next step was to grind up 25 grams of gum arabic into powder. Chloe was now fully onboard with the ink-making process:

 

 

 

The gum arabic was beautiful and sparkled like jewels. Chloe approved. Gum arabic thickens ink and enables to it adhere to the writing surface:

 

 

 

After I had ground it down to a powder, I added it to the mixture of oak galls and ferrous sulphate. Once again Chloe photobombed the video. Not sure that I could see that much difference in the mixture, but left again for a day on the windowsill:

 

 

 

Luna was sad she’d missed all the fun:

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Last stage! (Thanks for sticking with me.) I strained the mixture through a muslin cloth using a funnel. More sensible people would probably use gloves for this part. I left it for a while to let gravity do its thing. Chloe stealthily checked my progress:

 

 

 

After about an hour I gave the muslin a final squeeze. I ended up with about 125ml of ink:

 

 

 

Time to test – and … success! The ink was a lovely black, and it seemed to flow nicely. I unashamedly used a quill pen I bought from Harry Potter world to write the labels. Calligraphers will probably be horrified:

 

 

 

So now I have lots of ink and some lovely gifts for my friends. The process took about a week, but most of that was standing time. It wasn’t too messy and no inky pawprints. (Although it was no coincidence I did this in the week my children were away…)

 

 

 

I wanted to do this to get a better understanding of the medieval process, and I really did. Its amazing that I’ve ended up with something I can use. And it was really easy. And – I have a surprising new respect for wasps.

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Quality control from Chloe. She is happy to answer any ink-based queries.

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Follow me on Twitter @sarajcharles for more experiments with manuscripts