Gloved ManuscriptsPosted: December 9, 2011
On a cold winter morning Stephen Holmes (who’s looking at late medieval and early modern liturgical books at New College, Edinburgh) and myself braved the mildly snowy roads of the Borders to examine some manuscripts at a country house. Stephen, who took up driving and provided wonderful companionship, was interested in a thirteenth-century Psalter, while I was drawn to a Bible linked with Culross Abbey. We were not disappointed. The Lady of the house has generously allowed us to examine the manuscripts and take digital images. The beautiful eighteenth-century library, where we worked, was a delightful place of scholarship. It did, however, made manuscript examination a bit different, with no heating on a snowy day.
The view from the window was exquisite, with the snow over the maze and the distant hills. The manuscripts were likewise well worth their gloved investigation.
The Bible is a good example of the type of portable Bible produced by professional scribes and artists in Paris and Southern England c. 1250. It is, like many other Bibles of its time, written in minute script in dense two columns, with running titles and chapter divisions of blue and red, making it a most useful reference book. It is most unique, however, in its later medieval provenance. Only three pandects (as far my survey has shown, although I’ll be happy to learn otherwise) can be firmly attributed to medieval Scotland, this Bible being one of them. In a blank folio between the end of Revelation and the Interpretation of Hebrew Names, a neat fourteenth century hand added: Liber sancte marie de Culros in scotia prope monasterium de Dunferml’ – The book of St Mary of Culross in Scotland, near the monastery of Dunfermline.
It is therefore most beneficial to examine its marginal annotations and the way the Bible has been used by generations of subsequent readers. Some pages were added at a later date to supplement missing folios and prayers were inscribed following the Interpretation of Hebrew Names. Also, as seen below, numbers were added to Exodus Chapter 20 – ennumerating the ten commandments, first in Roman numerals and then in Arabic.
The examination of the manuscript was a delight, but ended only halfway. As dusk was falling the fading light made us close our manuscripts and begin thinking of the way back home. A howling dog added to the Victorian feel of the day, and with a bottle of the House’s celebrated Bear Ale bought as a present, we headed back to Edinburgh, looking forward to another opportunity to continue the investigation.