Some Tools for Dating and Localizing Manuscripts

By Legendre, Olivier | The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History, Annual 2008 | Go to article overview

Some Tools for Dating and Localizing Manuscripts


Legendre, Olivier, The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History


The criteria for dating presented here have been developed progressively in the systematic pan-European effort to identify dated and datable manuscripts, an enterprise that began in the mid-twentieth century. The project, known under the generic name of the Catalogue of Dated Manuscripts, intends to offer a solid footing for studies in paleography and the history of texts, indeed, for history in general, by creating a repertory of dated and datable manuscripts that provide reliable chronological and geographic benchmarks. For five decades the enterprise has moved forward without interruption, library by library, methodically if somewhat irregularly, depending upon the country and problems that arise with such publications. (1) The long duration of the work has given time to refine methods step by step, so that today it is relatively easy to give a broad view of the principle indications for dating that can be found in medieval manuscripts.

Chemists and physicists have not yet provided practical, nondestructive, or reliable tests for dating manuscripts. We thus depend on two types of indicator: explicit indicators, which must be treated critically, and implicit indicators, which have to be flushed out.

I Colophons

First among the explicit indicators is the colophon. The luckiest case for the researcher is obviously one where the scribe is charitable when he finishes his work. He himself informs us of his name, the date, the place where he is writing, and while he is at it, supplies a bit of information on the time it took and the circumstances surrounding his work. This type of indication is utterly exceptional before the tenth century. In most cases, only the name of the scribe or the patron is mentioned, and it is by cross-referencing this information with other indicators that we manage to date the volume. In these cases we speak of a "subscription." We reserve the term "colophon" for mentions that give fuller information, including the date and the place.

One of the best-known examples of a subscription is in the Maurdramnus Bible, one of our earliest witness to the new Caroline minuscule in the late eighth century: "Ego Maurdramnus abbas propter Dei amorem et propter conpendium legentium hoc volumen fieri jussi" (I, Maurdramnus, abbot, had this volume made for the love of God and for the benefit of the readers). (2) It is known that Maurdramnus was abbot of Corbie from 772 to 780. The Bible can thus be dated with a precision that is unusual for this period.

The use of colophons remains rare until the thirteenth century. They are a bit more frequent at the end of the Middle Ages but are not found in all or even most manuscripts. At Laon, the last library to be studied for the Catalogue of Dated Manuscripts in France, (3) colophons appear in one fifth of the manuscripts from the fifteenth century and in a third of those from the sixteenth century.

A manuscript at Soissons (4) (figure 1) has a dated colophon representing the rare ideal case where the scribe gives his name and the date but also the place of transcription: "Ce livre est a Jehan Thoulouse bouttiller en la viconte de l'eaue de Rouen escript l'an mil quatre cent soysante et quatre" (This book belongs to Jehan Thoulouse, cup-bearer in the viscounty of the waterways (5) of Rouen, written in the year 1464).

Of course, a colophon is not necessarily reliable out of hand. Two examples suffice to show that one has to be a bit cautious before rejoicing at having fallen upon an explicitly dated manuscript. In another manuscript at Soissons (6) (figure 2), the colophon reads:

   Fuit hic liber compilatus et completus Rome, anno Incarnationis
   dominice millesimo quadringentesimo quadragesimo sexto, VII kal.
   Marcii [23 February 1447 n. st.] pontificatus domini Nicolai pape
   quinti [Nicolas V, 1447-1455] anno primo, per reverendum patrem
   dominum Bernardum de Rosergio, prepositum Tholosanum (This book was
   compiled and finished in Rome, in the year of the Incarnation of
   our Lord, 1446 [old style], on the seventh kalends of March [23
   February], in the first year of the papacy of Pope Nicolas the
   fifth, by Lord Bernard de Rosergue, provost of Toulouse). … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Some Tools for Dating and Localizing Manuscripts
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.