When a manuscript was no longer needed, it was often recycled. One way to “dispose” of the unwanted manuscript, was to wash or scrape the pages so to erase the ink; it could now be used in the production of new manuscripts. Manuscripts recycled in this manner are called palimpsets.1 The leaves of this particular manuscript, which were also made from palimpsests, still show the remains of the erased text. They originally belonged to a manuscript with glossed canon laws in Italian from the fourteenth century.
The “renewed” manuscript was filled with rules for members of the Order of St. Clare. St. Clare, a follower of Francis of Assisi and the foundress of the female counterpart of the Franciscan order, had written the rules herself in the thirteenth century. They are the first known monastic guidelines written by a woman. The scribe of this manuscript was also a woman; Sister Marijken Breakmans was her name. She has added a colophon in fol. 97v asking the reader to pray for her soul. Someone has added pieces of paper with corrections2 or additions to the text on a later date (see for example fol. 91r). This manuscript also contains gothic music notation.
- Medieval scribes recognized that readers may need some help finding their way throughout the book or within the texts they contained. Over time, a number of tools were invented to this end. What type of reading-aids can you find in this manuscript? Give three examples.
- Up to 1200 most manuscripts were produced by monastic scribes, whereas after this date it became increasingly common for lay (i.e. non-clerical) individuals to be involved in book production. Does the manuscript in front of you provide any clues as to the potential background of the scribe? If you were forced to speculate, what would your verdict be and why?
- Gumbert, J. P. (2009). Illustrated Inventory of Medieval Manuscripts in Latin script in the Netherlands. Verloren.