Liberal Arts and Education
BPL 226 (West-Germany, Germany, 1100-1200): Helpericus, De Computo (On Calculation), parchment, 59 fols., 134 x 91 mm, 1 col., c.20 lines.

Religious life in the Middle Ages was structured according to the Liturgical Calendar, which determined when feast days were celebrated. The date of some of these celebrations varied each year because they depended on the position of the moon. For example, Easter is celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon of spring. (see BPL 154). This manuscript, which belonged to the Convent of St. Pantaleon in Cologne, contains three texts that are closely connected to the Liturgical Year. The first part of this manuscript contains Helpericus van Auxerre’s De computo. The computus circles on fol. 32v could be used to determine the correct date of Easter. The second part, a martyrology, is a list of the feast days of martyrs and saints. Lastly, this manuscript contains excerpts from the writings of Walafrid Strabo on chronology and calendars.

When the three parts of this manuscript were bound together the binder used recycled pages from a twelfth-century text on grammar to create the flyleaves1, in addition to using an antiphonary from the sixteenth century for the cover. The cover was separated from the manuscript and now has its own shelfmark (BPL 2515: 40). At some point the leaves of fol. 37 and fol. 38 were extended by sewing on pieces of parchment. These page extensions are quite noticeable because the binder did not cut the leaves to a uniform size.

(Gumbert, 2009, p. 100)


  1. This manuscript consists of several parts that where bound together on a later date. How do the parts differ from each other? Look for example at the material that was used, the type of script, the decorations and the addition of reading aids.
  2. Scribes added tools to the page to aid the reader in his or her endeavor to read, find and understand the text. Key “reading aids” are page numbers, running titles, and chapter titles and numbers. However, even decorative elements, such as colored initial letters functioned as aids to find or understand specific information. Make an inventory of all reading aids in this manuscript and deduce, based on your findings, why the reader turned to this book – that is, how the scribe, as he produced the object, anticipated the reader would. What aids are the most important clues for your conclusion? Clue: it helps to differentiate between the functions of reading aids: some helped the reader find information, while others clarified the text. What do the aids present on the page “do” and what does this tell you about how the reader used the book?


  1. Gumbert, J. P. (2009). Illustrated Inventory of Medieval Manuscripts in Latin script in the Netherlands. Verloren.