And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

tirsdag 19. desember 2017

Working with liturgical fragments, part 4 - Saint Stephen on the spine

One of my greatest challenges so far in working with the manuscript fragments of the university library of Southern Denmark, is a collection of seven strips of fragments surviving on the spine of a very thick book. The thickness of the spine has, thankfully, made my task much easier than it otherwise would have been, as that made it necessary for the binder to use thicker strips with more surviving texts. However, most of the strips have been torn from the manuscript pages vertically, providing a cross-section of the texts where the texts only survive by a few words (and sometimes those words are complete). As I'm still working on this particular case, and as it has been a very exciting challenge, I'm going to write about it more completely in a future blogpost. The present blogpost, however, will serve more as an appetiser, showing the most completely surviving string of text, and the only one which has been cut horizontally rather than vertically.

Syddansk universitetsbibliotek, 534.11

This fragment comes, as can be seen, from the top of the spine, and as it is cut horizontally we can make out the text "[pere]unt nostri crimini umbracula. Hodie seculo maris stella [est]". This text is from a sequence, a chant that is sung during the mass. This particular sequence is performed on the feast of of Saint Stephen (December 26). The nature of the chant tells us that the medieval manuscript was either a sequentiary, a missal, or a gradual, which are the types of books containing texts for the mass.

As stated, this little strip of text is the most complete survival of the seven fragments found on this spine. I have at this stage identified several of the remaining fragments, but a lot of work remains to be done with the rest, and I hope to be able to report exciting news in this regard after the Christmas holiday.

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