Astronomy is the science that studies celestial objects such as stars, planets and galaxies. In the Middle Ages astronomy and astrology (the study that tries to divine information about human affairs from the position of celestial objects) were closely connected and often studied together. Astronomy was an important subject for the Catholic Church, especially for determining the correct date of Easter, which is celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon of spring. This manuscript contains an excerpt of Bede’s De temporibus. De temporibus introduces the principles of the computus; the calculation system to determine the dates of Easter for every year.
In addition to De temporibus this manuscript contains excerpts of and a commentary on Priscian’s Institutiones (see also BPL 186), as well as several medical recipes. The different parts were bound together at a later date, which explains the variation of the subjects of the texts. In the last part, containing the commentary on the Institutiones, you can see the difference between the flesh side and the hair side of the parchment.1 The hair side is darker than the flesh side and carries speckled traces of the hair follicles.
- Before a scribe could begin to fill the quires with text, the layout of the page needed to be designed and prepared. What instruments did the scribe of this manuscript use to prepare the pages?
- Some manuscripts were made for institutional use, for example for a monastery, a nunnery, or a school. Others were made for one specific reader, who may even have made the book for him- or herself. While it is not easy to deduce whether the scribe made the manuscript for a community or a specific individual (or even for personal use), material features can sometimes provide clues to this end. Study this manuscript in search for such clues. Look for ownership inscriptions (often in the front or back of the book), the number of different individuals who added information into the margins (the script may help you here), and the number of entries added by these individuals. If you had to speculate, for what scenario would you opt and why: community or individual use?
- Gumbert, J. P. (2009). Illustrated Inventory of Medieval Manuscripts in Latin script in the Netherlands. Verloren.
- Gerritsen, W. P. (2007). Europa’s leerschool: de zeven vrije kunsten in de Middeleeuwen. Een rondgang langs Leidse handschriften. Primavera Pers.