Calendars and the DIY Manuscript

Scotland, being not the most bustling hub of manuscript production for most of the Middle Ages, relied much on import.  It seems that the centers of import changed from England and France in the late twelfth and thirteenth century to the Low Countries in the fourteenth and fifteenth, in tandem with changed in tandem with the shift in national production and the move from religious to lay, form Psalters to Books of Hours.  What is interesting in both cases, however, is the rise of the DIY manuscript and the personalisation offered by the book trade.

That manuscripts left the stationers’ shop incomplete is a phenomenon that was replicated by early printers.  From the manuscripts surveyed so far, calendars appear to be a point of interest, and one that greatly interested me and Kate Rudy from St Andrews in a joint (and very joyous) examination of manuscripts at the NLS last week.  We were struck by calendars in Scottish MSS, either very blank, or affixed at a later date.  Such strategy would have enabled booksellers to produce manuscripts only rudimentarily customized to a local market, expecting patrons to fill in the gaps on their own.  This can be seen in calendars from the c.1200 Iona Psalter, in the dominant whiteness of the Inchmahome Psalter, and in the c. 1440 Aberdeen Psalter.  The Perth Psalter (from the last decades of the fifteenth century) is a product of West Flanders; its  calendar appear to be of English origins.

Such production strategy explains the nature of these books; it also explains the infrequent prominence of English saints – with the possibility that the Scottish market was seen as a sub-category of the English one.  It also raises interesting questions regarding the use of these books.  Calendar entries were not added on, and combined with a paucity of marginal annotations may suggest a certain passivity by successive generations of readers.

No pictures this time round!  The production times offered by the NLS are not very favourable to the (semi-)rapid procession of blogs.  However, next week I’m off to an country house, where a few manuscripts away as well as the possibility to use my camera.  The next blog will therefore be of a more illustrious nature.


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