Thanks to “The Arabic original of (ps.) Māshā’allāh’s Liber de orbe: its date and authorship” (British Journal for the History of Science 48.2 (June 2015), p. 321-352) by Taro Mimura, associate professor at Hiroshima University, Japan, new information is available about LJS 439, formerly cataloged as an unidentified 14th-century cosmological treatise. Using the digital facsimile of LJS 439, Dr. Mimura was able to identify this manuscript as one of two known copies of the 10th-century Arabic original of the Book on the Configuration of the Orb. The other copy is Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Ms. or. oct. 273. The Arabic work was previously known only through Maimonides’s use of an example from it and through Latin translations. Dr. Mimura attributes the text to Dunash ibn Tamim, a student of Fatimid court physician and philosopher Isaac Israeli, and he is preparing an edition of the Arabic Liber de orbe based on these two manuscripts.
The Penn Libraries is proud to announce the launch of the first Massive Open Online Course Collaboration (MOOC) from the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies and the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies: “The History of Medieval Medicine through Jewish Manuscripts.”
Launching on June 1st, this online mini-course is a general introduction both to medieval medicine and to the value of manuscript study taught by Professor Y. Tzvi Langermann, Professor of Arabic at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University and last year’s Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies-Herbert D. Katz Center Jewish Manuscript Studies Fellow. Professor Langermann presents a case study that builds from a unique manuscript codex produced in the 15th century containing three important medical manuscripts in Judeo-Arabic (Arabic in Hebrew characters). Compiled in Sicily by a physician identified as David ben Shalom, the manuscript bears witness to the rich cultural exchanges among Latin, Jewish, and Arabic communities during this time, especially in the sciences. In this course, Professor Langermann not only walks the student through the basics of medical knowledge, training,
and practice in the Jewish Middle Ages and beyond, but also shows how clues gleaned from elements of a particular manuscript (such as marginal notes, mistakes, and handwriting) shed light on the purpose, use, and readership of these texts. The course includes eight 5–7 minute long video lectures that explore the highlights of this extraordinary manuscript.
“The History of Medieval Medicine through Jewish Manuscripts” is offered free to anyone with an internet connection at http://www.edX.org (search the term “Langermann”). The course is self-paced and takes about 2 hours to complete. The content will not be inaccessible to the novice, but the nature of the material and the level of scholarship should interest graduate students and colleagues from a range of disciplines. There is an active discussion forum, and a link to the full manuscript in digital form. The course will initially be monitored by a TA with specialties in medieval Jewish history, and Hebrew and Judeo Arabic language. Professor Langermann himself will also occasionally participate in the discussions and respond to student queries.
At this moment the Penn Libraries are embarking on a search for a senior conservator and eagerly anticipating the September opening of a new, 3,500-square-foot conservation lab in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. It’s a good time for a story about what conservation can do.
For some students, a 600-year-old manuscript works its magic on their imagination and curiosity even if they can’t read what’s written on its pages. But, not surprisingly, being able to make out even a few lines of text takes students to another level, slowing them down to experience script and page layout for themselves. So opportunities to read open up more pedagogical possibilities for faculty. Students with skills in Latin or Italian have an abundance of choices among the manuscripts of the Kislak Center. Students with skills in French or German have a respectable array from which to choose. But for students whose needs would be best met by early English manuscripts, we have only a precious handful — five manuscripts.
Middle English manuscripts are now extremely difficult to acquire, and we are fortunate to have these five manuscripts from acquisitions of the 1940s and early 1950s. But they had hard lives before coming to the library, all but one having been rebound by owners of past centuries, often trimmed to fit into not particularly durable new bindings, and at the library the manuscripts continue to work hard for students, faculty, and library staff.
Thanks to a gift from long-time Libraries friend Bruce McKittrick and the work of Richard Homer, a conservator at Philadelphia’s Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA), one of these manuscripts is newly useful for research and teaching. It has a solid new binding that better reflects the probable weight and shape of the manuscript’s original binding and that provides stability, flexibility, and protection for the manuscript inside. Continue reading
Philadelphia, PA, January 6th, 2016—The Penn Libraries is proud to announce their role as online host and one of the leaders in a partnership that will create the country’s largest regional collection of digitized medieval manuscripts. This role is made possible through a grant of almost $500,000 awarded to Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis, a new project organized by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) and funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The project, involving a total of 15 partner institutions, and led by the Penn Libraries, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and Lehigh University, will complete the digitization and online presentation of virtually all of the region’s medieval manuscripts – a total of almost 160,000 pages from more than 400 individual volumes. PACSCL first showcased the variety and depth of Philadelphia collections in a 2001 exhibition, “Leaves of Gold: Manuscript Illumination from Philadelphia Collections,” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The exhibition and its associated catalogue drew heavily upon the manuscripts to be digitized in this project and sparked a surge in scholarly interest in the Philadelphia collections.
The manuscripts in this project range from simple but functional texts intended for the students of science, philosophy, and religion to jewel-like works of art in the collections of such institutions as Bryn Mawr College, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum.
Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis’ images and metadata will be hosted by the Penn Libraries’ manuscript portal, OPenn (http://openn.library.upenn.edu). The images will be released into the public domain at high resolution and available for download (by the page, manuscript, or collection) with descriptive metadata. “Penn Libraries is thrilled to be collaborating with the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to create data on the Middle Ages for the twenty-first century from American collections,” remarked William Noel, Director of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Penn Libraries.
The project participants include the following area libraries and museums: Bryn Mawr College, Chemical Heritage Foundation, College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Franklin and Marshall College, Free Library of Philadelphia (lead contributor and co-principal investigator) Haverford College, Lehigh University (principal investigator, fiscal agent, and dark archive), Library Company of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rosenbach Museum and Library, Swarthmore College, Temple University, University of Delaware, University of Pennsylvania (OPenn host and lead imaging/metadata center), Villanova University.
About the Penn Libraries
The Penn Libraries serve the world-class faculty and students of Penn’s 12 schools. The Libraries’ collections comprise more than 7 million volumes, over 100,000 journals, some 2 million digitized images, and extraordinary rare and unique materials that document the intellectual and cultural experience of ancient and modern civilizations. Through our collaborative relationships, we supplement Penn’s great local collections with physical access to the Center for Research Libraries (approximately 5 million items), the combined holdings of the Ivies (more than 70 million volumes), and exclusive electronic access to some 2 million public domain titles in the HathiTrust. Today, the Libraries play an instrumental role in developing new technologies for information discovery and dissemination and are noted for groundbreaking work in digital library design. To learn more about the Penn Libraries, visit http://www.library.upenn.edu.
By Jesse McDowell
Certainly the book I was assigned in Will Noel and Dot Porter’s course in Rare Book School, “The Medieval Manuscript in the Twenty-First Century,” ascribed to the course’s title quite seemingly. I spent my time working with a nicely old Carolingian manuscript from 9th-century France, LJS 101. Like many medieval manuscripts, this one has been bound more than once, and so came the use of text-matching and open data to literally restructure the original physicality of the book in digital form.
LJS 101 is a parchment manuscript bound in 10 quires containing Boethius’s Latin translation of Aristotle’s De interpretatione (On Interpretation). It originates from north-central France, most likely the abbey at Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire (also known as the Abbaye de Fleury).
However, the book contains more than a translation. Though LJS 101 originates in the 9th-century, it contains replacement leaves added to the beginning and end in the 11th-century (current fols. 1-4 and 45-64), with seemingly the same hand correcting the first scribe in his translational slips. Also in the 11th century, color was added to existing initials and to diagrams charting Aristotle’s formal connection between language and logic. Though my narrative does not perform anything close to a textual study, we’ll call these two scribes Scribe A (9th-cent hand) and Scribe B (11th-cent hand) in the same vein as textual critics.
Scribe A composed the body of the translation itself from folios 5-44. Scribe B’s contribution is sparser, his hand (as mentioned above) showing complete replacement leaves at folios 1-4 and 45-64, as well as added corrections and glossed material throughout the manuscript. Scribe B introduces new genres in folios 45-64 (as the catalogue describes):
“the Perihermeniae attributed to Apulieus, a poem by Decimus Magnus Ausonius on the seven days of Creation, a sample letter of a monk to an abbot with [more] interlinear and marginal glosses, and other miscellaneous verses, definitions, and excerpts.”
What is most striking about Scribe B’s contribution to this manuscript is the firm variety which it comes with. We know that Carolingian miniscule became a widely used script to compose codices for professional and educational purposes from the 9th to the 13th-century. Scribes used this script widely on into the 12th-century for a variety of reasons, right when books were being produced by a number of different workers in the secular world. The script itself became codified and sharpened as a professional way of composing. If we can approximate the burgeoning use of Carolingian miniscule to c. 800, then we can hypothesize that Scribe A was quite new at this script. Indeed, the spaces between words are much clearer in Scribe B’s contributions in fol. 1-4 and 45-64, as this is one chief characteristic of a well-practiced hand.
In attempting to establish the structure of the book, there seemed to be a discrepancy between my collation formula and that determined by the cataloguer. The manuscript contains a 19th-century foliation and has prickings throughout, though this proved fruitless when trying to establish just how many gatherings the bound object contained. Initially the collation differences presented a problem in establishing structure. In short, the catalogued information accounted for 9 quires to the 10 I came up with over and over again in my own count.
We were both accounting for the same number of leaves in the manuscript. We also both noticed a discrepancy in the current 2nd and 3rd quires. Herein was the problem: with some help from Will Noel, I discovered that the current quires 2-3 were misplaced. The first problem was that Gregory’s Rule – hair side of parchment always faces hair side – was broken, at 8v-9r. Under my collation, there was no way to tell where the ‘missing’ leaf was.
Codicologists meet problems with incorrect binding all the time, and while this binding and foliation didn’t account for the discrepancy in the leaves, re-examination of the book eventually did. The manuscript’s current binding comes in an English diced Russia leather for Sir Thomas Phillips in the 19th-century. The watermark on the pastedown shows a shelfmark for ‘J. Whatman 1832.’ This could very well be a manifestation of the use of old books by antiquarians in the 19th-century who, not well understanding the nature of medieval codices, re-bind and re-label them into new codices for personal keepsakes and exhibition. Elizabeth Kolbert writes to this reality of antiquarians and aristocrats housing artifacts and even fossils in the 19th-century as collectors, rather than researchers. Alas, this seems to epitomize the life of most old books in the hands owners who do not expose them to research. In the same vein, we should not keep books from being digitized. According to Tim Stinson‘s research, less than 2% of the entirety of medieval manuscripts in the world have been digitized. Though this statistic is now a few years old, we might be able to look to the future of accessible manuscripts with a sense of positivity, as recently the Vatican Library put over 4,000 of their manuscripts online for free. But what does this mean for the researcher? Certainly the step now is to not just digitize quickly, but release the manuscripts as Open Data (not with restrictive licenses), as Penn has done with their collections in OPenn.
In the case of LJS 101, I couldn’t examine this central problem of a missing folio without digital images and access to 19th-century editions. I had to find where the text matched up after 8v— for it was not the current 9r. It was time to search for a relatively modern edition of the Latin text itself to reconcile the discrepancy. I found an 1877 edition in HathiTrust (ed. Karl Meiser).
The end of the current 8v contained text that correlated with that of the current 12r.
So, the text at bottom of 8v reads (from above):
quod significat subiectum est quocirca unū[m] quoque
where the matching text at the top of 9r doesn’t match up to what follows in the 1877 edition:
reterea non quod nos intelligum eequum
The text itself notified us of where Gregory’s Rule had been broken—where that of leaf 8r in the currently bound manuscript actually coincides with 12v. What essentially occurred was a mis-binding and foliation done in the 19th-century where the currently bound 12v should ideally be 7v. The text at the bottom of 12v currently reads
apud Scythas amara nec acida, sed apud ipsos quoque
and the following text on 13r doesn’t correlate:
p[er] mixtio ista significat; Quod si unum significant to [to]ta p[er] mixtio pars inde separate nihil extra designat;
From the 1877 Latin edition the correct text after ipsos quoque is sunt dulcia et apud omnes, thus
[last line 12v]: apud Scythas amara nec acida, sed apud ipsos quoque [begin 8r]: sunt dulcia et apud omnes gentes eodem modo: ita quoque omnia nomina si naturaliter essent, isdem omnes homines uterentur.
This is but one example of how the text within the manuscript hadn’t matched up correctly. Instead of continuing to chart out the discrepancies, I’ll explain how I rendered a collation based off these findings. The text was the governing factor in matching up folios in the right order, and on this more minute level, we can see how it logically makes sense to re-puzzle a book whose folios are out of order. On a more general level, all that happened here was that quires 2 and 3 had been separated where they should have been bound together. If rebound, the second and third quire should simply be ‘quire 2.’ Based off the 19th-century foliation, the current folio 5 should ‘ideally’ be 1, 9 should be 2, 10 should be 3, and so on (for of course 8 folios in the quire).
As I presume, Penn isn’t in the business of physically rebinding a 9th-century book, especially when the current binding is in great condition. If we wanted to see this book as it was originally bound, or at least how it was bound before 1832, how could we reposition the folios against the foliation in the upper right-hand corner? We could certainly sit down with a pen and notebook and draw up a new collation, but what if we want to read the text from leaf to leaf as if it was in a correct order?
The interface I used to visualize such a structure was the digital visualization collation, a system initially developed by a collaborative team led by Dot Porter, to visualize collation diagrams based off of a model, rather than by counting and charting by hand. We were informed during our course discussions on collation that this system had been created for visualizing collation models, but we soon learned it can do so much more. At its core, this program provides something that fundamentally invigorates collation methods for medievalists; it can also wear many hats. It can allow for the repurposing of different outlets of methods at the very outset.
The repurposing I refer to came about when I was able to recreate a binding that reflected the original quire structure. Instead of laying out the entire structure online, I used the program to visually capture what couldn’t be imagined without both the digital images and the visualization program. For instance, since the program automatically begins at “Quire 1” with every collation formula, the screenshots provided render “Quire 1” where I am actually visualizing quire 2, a quire 2 that currently doesn’t exist in the book itself.
First we will see quires 1-3 as the book is currently bound. Scribe A added these leaves making up fol. 1-4 for an introduction and the decorating of a beautiful initial, and what follows is what you would see if you walked into Kislak Center and opened up this book upon request.
Currently bound quires 1-3, Q1:
Currently bound Q2:
And currently bound Q3:
These are screenshots of the visualized quires; they are live online here.
Now onto the digital reconstruction. If you were to walk into the Kislak Center and gaze upon this book, you couldn’t read the book straight through with matching Latin unless you were accompanied by this corrected version:
Here is the live online visualized quire for the reconstruction, and below is the screenshot:
What this small foray reveals is the strikingly fundamental role that digital scholarship, and digitizing itself, can play in medieval studies. What’s more, this demonstration solicits but one aspect of what the digital world can offer. In the case of transcription practice, data-mining, and textual editing, programs like T-PEN and of course TEI-texts have seriously revitalized what we can see when we evaluate texts and ask the same fundamental questions in order to conduct research. Their value does not necessarily lie in that the programs make life easier, for surely they do, but more that they create a distinctly different paradigm one can adopt when doing scholarship of any kind with any old book.
Megan Cook, an Assistant Professor of English at Colby College, spent a week in July at the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies as one of the students in The Medieval Manuscript in the Twenty-First Century, a course under the auspices of Rare Book School, headquartered at the University of Virginia. Here she shares her experience of that week, working with Penn Ms. Codex 1070.
Although it might be considered cheating, given the theme of the course, during my week as a student in Will Noel and Dot Porter’s Rare Book School class, the Medieval Manuscript in the Twenty-first Century, I spent most of my time working on a sixteenth-century heraldic manuscript. While Penn Ms. Codex 1070, isn’t medieval, my experiences with it show how open access to digital images of early books can facilitate new answers to old questions.
Penn MS Codex 1070 is a small manuscript on paper, bound in vellum, written in the 1570s. Its front leaf summarizes its contents:
The Genelogies of the Erles of Lecestre & Chester wherein is briefly shewed som part of their deedes and actes with the tyme of their raignes in their Erldoms, and in what order the saide Erldoms did rightfully descend to the crowne, and in the same is also conteyned a lineall descent shewing how the right honorable Robert Erle Lecestre and Baron of Denbigh knight of [th]e Garter and Chamberlen of Chester is trewly descended of Margaret second sister and one of the heires of Robert fitz Pernell the first Erle of Lecestre and of Maude and Agnes the first and third doughters to hugh keuelock the fifte Erle of Chester, sisters and coheirs to Randolf Blondeuile the sixt Erle of Chester. Note that the lynes and descent[es] come from those rondells in the margent which be stayed by two leaues, and the other rondells that are stayed but by one leafe are the colaterall children.
This passage tells us that the book describes the ancestry of Robert Dudley (1532-1588), the first Earl of Leicester. It was created in 1571 or 1572, perhaps in honor of Dudley’s appointment to the Order of the Garter in that year. Dudley was a favorite of Elizabeth’s and, although he was no longer a contender for Elizabeth’s hand by the 1570s, he remained an important political figure until the end of his life. While the book is a fine production, it contains several factual errors, and Robert Dudley himself does not appear in the genealogy alongside his siblings—a strange error that was noted by one later reader.
Deluxe heraldic manuscripts like this were a way for families and individuals to both assert and display their pedigree by documenting the complex maneuvers by which titles (and the land and wealth associated them) were transferred over the generations through inheritance and marriage. Genealogy was just one way of using heraldry (the collection and display of coats of arms): the 2014 Folger Shakespeare Library exhibit Symbols of Honor explores the range of contexts and uses for heraldic display in early modern England.
After looking through Penn MS Codex 1070 and admiring its elegant design and naturalistic depiction of the eleventh century earls (complete with period-appropriate armor), I wondered: who created this book?
A production like MS Codex 1070 would require a combination of artistic skill and access to the historical sources necessary to trace five centuries of Leicester ancestors. There were only so many people living in England in the 1570s with the requisite background; many would have been professional heralds associated with the College of Arms who, in addition to researching and adjudicating official grants of titles, undertook deluxe manuscript productions for wealthy patrons.
Penn Codex 1070 tells us nothing about who made it, or to whom it was originally presented, but it is clearly is a professional production, not the work of an amateur. Flipping through its pages (see for yourself here), it is easy to appreciate how much careful planning the manuscript would have required: whoever created the manuscript had to arrange his pages so that there was sufficient room for both the text and the accompanying roundels. The roundels needed to be appropriately sized for the text they contain, but also leave room for the carefully detailed shields and the branches that link them. At certain points, branches merge with, or diverge from, one another, and getting this right would have required special attention when the pages were laid out.
Codex 1070 is unusual in that the branches extend all the way into the upper and lower margins, creating them impression of vertical continuity from page to page. By doing so, I think whoever created the manuscript meant to take a well-established format for displaying genealogical information—the armorial roll, or scroll (see, for example, Penn MS 1066)—and adapt it to the codex format, which would have allowed for easier reading, storage, and transportation.
The image below shows how the maker of this book worked in stages, assembling each page in layers: First, he ruled the page using plumb line; then he wrote the text. Next, he added illustrative details, including the naturalistic branches and leaves, and the more formalized depictions of coats of arms. Finally, he added decorative red lining around the margins.
The completed manuscript tells the story of Leicester’s ancestors in a number of distinct and reinforcing ways: there is the explanatory text itself; the abbreviated version of that text found in the roundels; the visual connections created by the branches and leaves (which, as the opening note tells us, reflect the status of the branch of the family being depicted); and finally the more standardized and stylized coats of arms which, as they are impaled and quartered over many generations, become increasingly complex. Much of what is described verbally in the text could be extrapolated from the last, largest and most intricate coat of arms displayed in the manuscript:
In my quest to learn more about this manuscript, I needed to go beyond what the book alone could tell me, so I turned to its provenance. Before the manuscript came to Penn, it was owned by Madeline Pelner Cosman, who was a medievalist, medical lawyer, and anti-immigration activist, as well as book and gun collector. The last lines of her 2006 New York Times obituary state, “Ms. Cosman also leaves behind a vast library of illuminated manuscripts and a large collection of handguns.”
While the manuscript was in her possession, Barbara McGeogh, a graduate student at CUNY, wrote a masters thesis about the manuscript in 1974. McGeogh suggests three candidates for authorship:
- Robert Cooke, Chester herald and later the Clarenceax King of Arms
- John Cocke, a Dudley family servant
- Edmund Knight, who succeeded Cooke as Chester herald
I wanted to see if I could test McGeogh’s hypotheses by looking for manuscripts created by Cooke, Cocke, and Knight and determining whether they looked anything like the Penn manuscript. I began by looking at digital images from archives that I knew held heraldic manuscripts, including the Folger Shakespeare Library and the British Library. Neither contained any materials associated with John Cocke or Edmund Knight.
At the Folger Shakespeare Library, I found Folger MS V.b.76. This is a copy of a text written by Robert Cooke, but the hand doesn’t match the one in the Penn manuscript. It is not an autograph manuscript.
At the British Library, however, I found several images from MS King’s 396, a genealogy of Queen Elizabeth I on vellum, created around 1567.
Like the book at Penn, this manuscript doesn’t explicitly say anything about the people involved in its production. But a comparison of some key features across the books leads me to conclude that both were made and illustrated by the same person or persons.
We can see this when it comes to:
Now, as the British Library catalogue of Western manuscripts notes, there is no evidence of authorship in this manuscript either, but the New Year’s Gift Roll for 1567 (London, British Library, Additional MS 9772) includes a description of a manuscript that matches King’s 396. (On this point I am grateful to Sonja Drimmer for sharing her recent and fascinating essay, “Questionable Contexts: A Pedigree Book and Queen Elizabeth’s Teeth,” in Scholars and Poets Talk About Queens, ed. Carole Levin and Christine Stewart-Nuñez [New York: Palgrave, 2015], 203-24.)
Since they are housed in archives on opposite sides of the Atlantic, it is unlikely that I will ever get to Penn MS Codex 1070 and British Library MS King’s 396 side-by-side. Nonetheless, thanks to the British Library’s recent decision to make thousands images of their holdings freely available online, I was able to perform research from my desk in Philadelphia that affirms the hypothesis offered up by Barbara McGeogh more than forty years ago. An even larger archive of heraldic images, including the ones mentioned in the British Library catalogue and held at the Bodleian, might have allowed for an even more concrete answer.
This exercise shows that quite a lot might be learned from even a simple comparison that might never have been possible without digital images. The power of visual comparison on a larger scale is demonstrated in projects like Late Medieval English Scribes, which allows users to compare samples of all scribal hands that appear in the manuscripts of major Middle English authors and, in so doing, to produce new knowledge about the circulation of vernacular texts in late medieval England. A larger database of images from heraldic manuscripts might, similarly, offer new insight into the development, usage, and propagation of a highly codified system of genealogy and heraldry in the sixteenth century and beyond.
Kyle Ann Huskin, a Ph.D. student in English at the University of Rochester, spent a week in July at the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies as one of the students in The Medieval Manuscript in the Twenty-First Century, a course under the auspices of Rare Book School, headquartered at the University of Virginia. Here she shares her experience of that week and its impact on her work.
I never expected to be accepted to RBS course M-95: The Medieval Manuscript in the Twenty-First Century, taught at the University of Pennsylvania by Will Noel and Dot Porter, and I certainly never expected to have a life-changing experience (academically speaking) over the course of just five days. The class introduced us to just some of the ways digital technology can be used to enhance traditional codicological research endeavors. Although my experience seemed to be more traditional than other students’ in its reliance on paleography and internal “detective work” on a manuscript, my discoveries would not have been possible without UPenn’s open-source digital images, photo enhancement software, and open-access academic journals. I hope that my account of what Will and Dot put together in M-95 will encourage other institutions to take similar steps as SIMS towards producing open-source data and also encourage more students and scholars to conduct hands-on research in archival collections.
Will and Dot tried to find manuscripts to suit our interests based on our personal statements. I had said I was interested in representations of material texts in popular medieval literature, and accordingly, they had planned to give me a mid-fourteenth-century French copy of the Roman de Sept Sages (Ms. Codex 931). Due to its lack of binding, however, they decided on LJS 184, a late thirteenth-century Spanish copy of Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae. I doubt they knew about my fascination with the Etymologiae, but their decision turned out to be perfect for my interests because LJS 184 actually contained a text within the text — a legal document that had at one point been glued to the manuscript’s wooden back cover. Stating only that LJS 184 contained a “loose pastedown,” the catalog record in Penn in Hand made no mention of the fact that there was writing on this parchment. I could tell that it was some kind of Latin legal document written in a later hand than the main text. Hoping that it contained valuable provenance information, I became obsessed with deciphering it. Continue reading