Whenever a person entered a monastery or convent, he or she made a vow to obey to the rules of the order. Many convents followed the Rule of St. Benedict. The Regula Benedicti was the most popular monastic rule in the Middle Ages. It emphasized the importance of obedience, poverty and modesty. Moreover, it offered a guide for day-to-day life in the monasteries. The Rule of St. Benedict divided the day in periods of prayer, sleep, reading and labor. The part of this manuscript that contains the Rule of St. Benedict was directed at nuns, while other texts in this manuscript are directed at monks. Different parts of the manuscript have their own lay-out, showing the hands of different scribes. Like BPL 2231 and BPL 2482, this book belonged to the Convent of the Virgin in Gaesdonck (the Netherlands).
The parchment used for the flyleaves of this manuscript was recycled from an eighth century psalter. Scribes often recycled a piece of parchment from an older manuscript in order to reduce the total cost of production. Though it is a shame that many manuscripts have not survived because their pages were re-used elsewhere, sometimes the fragments are still readable and can be studied. This manuscript still has its original binding; a limp binding made from parchment and without wooden cover boards.1 Unfortunately, the binding is badly damaged by water, which is especially visible in the first few pages of the manuscript.
- Users often modified the manuscript post-production, bringing it even more in tune with their needs. How did the readers of this manuscript interact with the texts? Clue: take a look at the margins and the flyleaves.
- Observe all written parts of the book in front of you (main text, rubrics, marginal additions, ownership inscriptions) and make an inventory of the different styles of handwriting. Some differences you observe may result from the fact that they are different script families, while others are a variation within one given script family. Focus on a small selection of letters of your own choice and deduce if they vary and how precisely. This is a difficult task that may require you to analyze individual letters, but that may also be sparked by an intuitive verdict: one style of writing may feel “much better” or “of higher quality” than another. Differentiate between the different writing styles to the best of your abilities and with any available means – quantitative or qualitative.
- Gumbert, J. P. (2009). Illustrated Inventory of Medieval Manuscripts in Latin script in the Netherlands. Verloren.