What did the scribbles tell in medieval manuscripts

(ORDO NEWS) — Although we usually associate spoiling books with marginal drawings with bored children, the history of “scribble writing” has more than one century.

And while marginal inscriptions or a mini-drawing of a knight fighting a snail may seem like vandalism, scholars have been able to use them to understand how people in earlier centuries understood and reacted to the narrative on the page.

If you look closely at the pages of medieval manuscripts, then next to the “official” illustrations, you can find many small drawings, marginal inscriptions, or simply wavy lines that were clearly not intended by the author in the book.

It seems that the monks who copied the texts, or other educated people, sometimes behaved like modern schoolchildren, coloring the drawings in the book or using the margins of the pages to practice handwriting.

Perhaps the point is simple boredom: rewriting books took many months and was very painstaking work that required perseverance and patience from the scribe.

It is not surprising that one of them, having finished transcribing an 11th-century Old English natural history handbook, added at the end the inscription: “Sy þeos gesetnys þus her geendod. God helpe minum handum . Which can be translated as: “So, let this essay end here. God help my hands . ”

According to the information resource The Conversation.com , such scribbles indicate that medieval scribes were not just living copy machines, but actively reacted to what was described in the book and even left peculiar comments.

Not far behind them were readers who spent hours reading without the opportunity, like today’s book lovers, to simply take the desired manuscript home: some entries, judging by the degree of fading of the ink, were added to the book later than it was written.

Not all such doodles were funny or meaningless. For example, there are relatively few scribbles in Sir Thomas Malory ‘s The Death of Darturus – the researchers found them on only 80 pages out of 473 that have survived to this day.

But such marginal notes reflect the course of the story in a unique way. In other words, in the process of rewriting or reading, people seemed to enter into a dialogue with the author of the work or his characters, becoming active participants in the creation of a medieval manuscript.

Since books in the Middle Ages were of great value and, in addition, were perceived as something eternal, capable of surviving a brief human age, drawing on their pages may seem barbaric or even blasphemous (given, for example, that some drawings depicted naked representatives of the church).

However, leaving drawings, inscriptions, comments and additions, scribes and readers left their mark on eternity: the signs of their presence were preserved for many more years, becoming part of the living history of the book.

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