Current Issue Article Abstracts

Fall 2021 Vol. 6.2

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ARTICLES  

History from the Margins: Literary Culture and Manuscript Production in Western India in the Vernacular Millennium
Jahnabi Barooah Chanchani

Scholars of South Asia have long known of praśastis, eulogistic verses often composed in the transregional Sanskrit language on copperplates, stone slabs, and temple walls, from the early centuries of the Common Era. They have traditionally sieved these documents to recover dynastic histories and have supposed that as a genre, it faded away in the second millennium CE when Islamic polities were established across the subcontinent and new genres of history writing were popularized. In making this supposition they have overlooked the fact that praśastis continued to be frequently composed and written. Yet, their appearance was neither in public spaces nor in public documents, but frequently at the ends of palm-leaf and paper manuscripts. In this paper, I carefully analyze a corpus of hitherto un-translated praśastis and other scribal remarks written at the end of oft illustrated sumptuous Jaina manuscripts prepared between c. 1000 – 1600 in western India. This was a period during which manuscript culture and literary production burgeoned in the region. Through my close reading of these genealogical micro histories, I shed new light on the emergence of new power elites, literati associations, centers of manuscript production, the rise of professional authors and scribes, and formation of kinship. I also consider the aesthetics and poetics of patronage in the region and ask why patrons in the early centuries of the second millennium CE sought to legitimize their family histories using an archaic genre.

 

Splendors of the Serenissima in a Digital Age: The Master of the Murano Gradual Reconsidered
Stephanie Azzarello, Bryan C. Keene

The Master of the Murano Gradual is one of the most enigmatic illuminators working in early fifteenth-century Venice. The eponymous choir books were commissioned by the Camaldolese monastery of San Mattia a Murano and today comprise a single intact volume in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin (MS 78 F.1) and about fifty historiated initials dispersed in twenty-five public and private collections in Europe and the United States. The fragmentary nature of the overall corpus is a central challenge to studying the artist and to understanding the contours of the workshop. This article provides a reassessment of the corpus of work attributed to the Murano Master—including an appendix with provenances of the whereabouts of the series—and makes a case for future collaborations that can build upon digitization efforts that make the fragments available online and upon recent technical analysis into the pigments used by the illuminators. 

The methodological approach of the authors has been twofold. Firstly, to study each of the fragments and manuscripts in person, and to locate digital assets for as many works as possible with the aim of creating an eventual website or online repository for scholars to consult. Secondly, to investigate codicological features of the individual fragments that have been hitherto overlooked, including the measurement of musical stave heights or blind-ruled lines for song, and the possible relationship between decorated and filigree letters to over one-hundred cuttings with decorated letters that have also been associated with the San Mattia series. Finally, the study also clarifies the dating of the Murano choir books, which were most likely produced in the 1420s.

 

Robert Ashley and the Authorship of Newberry MS 5017, The Book of Magical Charms
Renae Satterley

This article examines Newberry MS 5017, the Book of Magical Charms, a manuscript miscellany dated no later than 1639. The manuscript formed part of the Newberry Library's crowd-sourcing project to transcribe and translate three of the manuscripts in their exhibition, Religious Change 1450-1700. This article establishes Robert Ashley (1565-1641) as the manuscript's author. Ashley was a lawyer, translator and bibliophile whose bequest of over 5,000 books established the library at Middle Temple, one of the four Inns of Court. The article analyses the manuscript's charms, ritual magic, medical recipes and Christian esotericism excerpts to show that they were mainly transcribed from identifiable manuscript sources, with some from printed books. The author draws conclusions, based on Ashley's Ashley’s life, translations and book collection, about the manuscript's purpose and use, situating it within Ashley's library and the information gathering networks centered around the Inns of Court in the early modern period.

 

Title Pages in Sixteenth-and Seventeenth-Century Icelandic Manuscripts: The Development and Functions of Print Features in Manuscript Form
Silvia Hufnagel

This article analyses the influence of the printing press on Icelandic handwritten manuscripts from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Iceland has a particularly rich and long-lasting manuscript culture that did not cease until the early twentieth century. Many post-medieval manuscripts include paratextual features that are more commonly connected with printed books, such as title pages which were a true innovation of the printing press but which are found in manuscripts, too. The earliest Icelandic title pages are found in manuscripts that were written for or by highly educated men and that contain the same textual genres that were printed, too, although references to print are rare. Title pages appear frequently in hymn manuscripts and various scribal strategies can be detected, from strict copies of their printed exemplars to emulating title pages of learned works. Often the medium of reception, or more precisely, singing is mentioned. Title pages appear very seldom in saga manuscripts, a popular genre that was restricted to the handwritten medium at that time. These title pages show much more decoration than hymn title pages and are full of stylistic and rhetorical elements of Baroque literature, such as alliteration and accumulatio. Similar to hymn title pages, the medium of reception, of reading and listening to, is stated. This analysis proves that title pages in manuscripts derived from printed books but that they developed their own specific characteristics, depended on several factors: printed models, generic traditions, the medium of reception, and individual choices of scribes and patrons.

 

 

ANNOTATIONS

 

Data Sanctorum: The Corpus Kalendarium Database of Devotional Calendars
Aaron Macks

The Book of Hours was the popular personal religious manuscript of the medieval period, and the vast majority of the surviving examples begin with a devotional calendar of saints and feasts. The Corpus Kalendarium Database, or CoKL DB, is a database of these manuscripts and their calendars, recording the saints and feasts, and cross linking them to allow querying by metadata of the manuscript or calendar itself, or the presence and rank of a particular observance or group of observances. This paper presents an introduction to the underlying relational database, the user interface, and some of the ways that this data-driven system can present manuscripts which would be impossible with the physical objects.

 

How a Small Scribal Error Left a Medieval Document Unprinted for 500 Years: Report from a Cataloguing Project at Copenhagen City Archives
Svend Clausen

This annotation describes how a small scribal error in a late medieval Danish document led to that document being left out of the later printed source edition, because the scribe’s correction of his own mistake was not recognized by the man who registered the document later on in the city archives in Copenhagen. It talks about how this sealed the fate that the document remained unknown and unpublished until a registration project at Copenhagen City Archives rediscovered and redated it in 2017 finally resulting in the making of the first-ever printed source edition i 2019. It also discusses the implications this has had for the intellectual knowledge of the history of Copenhagen and even for the understanding of modern cultural heritage in the streets of Copenhagen.

 

REVIEWS

 

Alberto Campagnolo, ed. Book Conservation and Digitization: The Challenges of Dialogue and Collaboration.
Nancy K. Turner

 

Frank T. Coulson and Robert G. Babcock, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Latin Palaeography.
Lisa Fagin Davis

 

Mauro Perani, ed. The Ancient Sefer Torah of Bologna: Features and History.
Fabrizio Lelli

 

Dan Terkla and Nick Millea, eds. A Critical Companion to English Mappae Mundi of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries.
Martin Foys

 

Eyal Poleg. A Material History of the Bible, England 1200–1553.
Matti Peikola

 

Federico Botana. Learning Through Images in the Italian Renaissance: Illustrated Manuscripts and Education in Quattrocento Florence.
Emanuele Lugli

 

List of Manuscripts Cited