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

torsdag 22. februar 2018

Working with liturgical fragments, part 8 - The case of the blindingly obvious

RARA K 248
Syddansk Universitetsbibliotek

When working with medieval fragments, difficulties present themselves in many different forms. The main problem tends to be a lack of information, which is the nature of fragments. Other times, the problem can be to assess the information that is actually there, either because of the state of the fragment or one's own inexperience, or both. Yet other times, there can be a combination of these two, as is the case for the fragment I'm currently working on, as shown above.

This fragment is from a missal, which can be made clear from the red letters on the left-hand column say "Off", meaning "offertory", which is a part of the mass. The fragment is also badly worn, and the letters have in many cases vanished or can only be identified with limited certainty, which means that for the most part I only have a handful of words from each section of the page from which to attempt an identification. Well, a handful is an exaggeration, because in most cases I do not have even five words from which to start.

I struggled for a long time with the text in the above picture, slowly identifying individual letters, marking them down on print-outs of pictures showing the section in question, and trying to find enough material to put through the relevant databases in hope that something would come out of it. It took me a long time, but I was finally able to identify the words "Surge et", "rise and". This was not very much to go on, especially since the word "et" is so common as to provide numerous useless results in any search query. But I knew at least that the sentence started with "surge", and I had an inkling that the text might belong to the text further down on the column. This inkling might seem as a no-brainer but when you look at the way the fragment is used to bind the book, you see that the spine is quite thick and creates an artificial break in the column itself.  

RARA K 284
Syddansk Universitetsbibliotek

As stated, I suspected that the text on the one cover might be connected somehow with the text on the other cover. Since I had already managed to identify the text on the other cover as belonging to the Book of Jonah, I thought that this might be the case with the text I was then working on as well. This proved to be true, and I also discovered that not only was the text connected, it was one and the same section of the fragment, running across the spine and connecting both the covers with the opening of chapter 3 of the Book of Jonah. I was elated. Both because I had finally managed to solve a rather pernicious puzzle, but also because having the text run all the way down the surviving part of the text column meant that those lines which were worn away, especially on the folds of the spine, could reasonably be filled in or reconstructed from the Book of Jonah. This in turn meant that I did not run the risk of having a single, recalcitrant, truculent line from some minor section that could not be identified.

After the excitement had abated somewhat - but only somewhat - I looked through some of the pictures I had taken, and some of the excitement started to fade because now that I had solved the puzzle, the solution seemed very clear, the letters did not seem as worn as I first had thought. And then, finally, I noticed that me identifying this text as belonging to the Book of Jonah was as unimpressive and as un-miraculous as you could possibly get. For right above the beginning of the passage from the Book of Jonah, four red letters clearly indicated "ione", Jonah, showing that if I had been more aware I would have gone to the Book of Jonah right away. I had seen those letters during my research, but I had failed to understand them, simply due to a lack of experience. I had never come across  such an indication before, and I did not know that this was done. In this way, my difficulty consisted both of lacking material - such as lacking a vast amount of the letters - and also lacking experience, not being able to read the information that was actually on the page, until after it was all sorted.

I am now prepared for another rubric indicating that the text is taken from the Book of Jonah, but I somehow suspect that if I see an indication for another biblical book, I might overlook it for the same reason I overlooked the rubric in RARA K 284.

Ingen kommentarer:

Legg inn en kommentar