Scientists read marginal notes on a Dark Ages manuscript

(ORDO NEWS) — A series of secret drawings and inscriptions added by a mysterious female scribe have been discovered in a manuscript that is over 1,200 years old.

Many of us draw in the margins of books. And so it has been for all the ages that mankind has been able to read and write, even before the invention of the printing press.

Someone leaves their name as a keepsake, someone – a funny cat, and someone depicts a little man on the gallows.

What was painted in the fields in the Middle Ages? Within the framework of the ArchiOx project (“Analysis and registration of cultural heritage in Oxford”, Great Britain), scientists studied an early medieval manuscript with the conditional (accepted in scientific circulation) MS Selden Supra 30 using the stereo photometric scanning method.

Scientists read marginal notes on a Dark Ages manuscript 2
Preservation is quite good for an early medieval manuscript

This is the Latin version of the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles.

Although the stereo photometry method is used in other areas, the prototype of the brand new Selene apparatus was used for the first time for the study of the manuscript.

Scholars chose this particular manuscript because as early as 1935 paleographer Elias Avery Lowe found an inscription at the bottom of page 47.

The letters EADB were scratched into it. The researchers decided to find out if the author of the inscription left any other traces. Left. Or rather, left.

On the margins of the manuscript, the name Eadburg (Eadburg) written in slightly different forms occurs 14 times. This is an old Saxon female name.

Scientists read marginal notes on a Dark Ages manuscript 3
Since Eadburg did not use ink, it is impossible to make out the inscription with the naked eye. The lower image shows a 3D image of the hidden inscription

The manuscript is dated to the 8th century AD. It is believed that it was kept in one of the abbeys near Kent, where it was discovered only in the 16th century and transferred to the Bodleian Library of Oxford University. It is impossible to accurately trace the path of the manuscript to this time.

But we have a rough idea of ​​how literacy was in Britain in general, and especially among women. There were few literate people, and here we talked about the reasons. Eadburg knew written Latin, that is, she was a noble woman – and a Christian.

Note that Christianity at that moment was only returning to the island, and from two sides. Irish missionaries sail from the west (there were no Dark Ages in Ireland), and Kent strengthens its influence in the southeast of the country.

In the 6th century, the ruler of Kent was the first of the English kings to be baptized by St. Augustine of Canterbury.

Scholars from the Universities of Oxford and Leicester suggest that Eadburgh may have been the head of a women’s religious community in Kent in the 8th century.

But even if this is so, the noble Saxon left not only her name on the margins of the manuscript. She also drew a whole series of pictures with little men. It is rather unusual for a Christian to treat a book of the New Testament in this way.

Perhaps she was only a copyist – such people remained in great demand until the beginning of printing, and even in Britain of the Dark Ages they were completely worth their weight in gold.

Scientists read marginal notes on a Dark Ages manuscript 4
When Eadburg got bored, she drew little men

The way of writing used by Eadburg is interesting. There are no traces of ink on the margins, that is, she scratched out, and sometimes squeezed out her name and drawings in separate dots.

Most likely, she did it with a clean pen – perhaps so that what she wrote was not visible to the prying eye.

The practice of medieval readers to mark books with their name is not uncommon. But usually this was done with ink, and not in a dry way.

Placing hidden inscriptions throughout the book, roughly the size of an A5 pamphlet, may be an attempt to claim ownership or reverence for the work without detracting from the words of God.

Regardless of what stage Eadburgh occupied in the Christian society of Kent, the following should be noted. Specifically, this Latin list of the Acts of the Apostles is slightly different from all the others. And not only because of the autographs in the margins.

Added to this manuscript is a prayer with which an unknown woman (possibly Eadburgh herself) turns to God for help.

This is a unique case, there is nothing similar in similar manuscripts: separate collections were compiled for prayers.

Scientists believe that a woman inserted the prayer into the manuscript. This means that the ladies of medieval England could well create manuscripts themselves.


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