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Burgess Collection

Guide to Manuscript Descriptions

This guide is intended to briefly explain each section of the manuscript descriptions utilized in this catalogue. Detailed discussions of the techniques and materials used in the various aspects of manuscript production are not provided. However, references to such explanations are provided at the end of each section. For ease of comprehension, the guide will procede through the sections in the exact order that they appear in the manuscript descriptions. Each description begins with a brief introductory section containing five separate components:

  1. Burgess Collection number
  2. Author(s) and/or title(s)
  3. Language in which the manuscript is written; brief description of decoration (if any)
  4. Date and place of origin [brackets indicate uncertainty]
  5. Links to scanned images
I. Material
II. Construction
III. Preparation of the Page 
IV. Text
VII. Binding

I. Material

This section describes the material on which the manuscript was written (i.e., the type, condition, and size of the material). For a discussion on the preparation of vellum, see De Hamel, p. 86 and Bischoff, pp. 8-11. For a discussion of the history and preparation of paper, see Thompson, pp. 34-8, Bischoff, pp. 12-13 and Febvre and Martin, pp. 29-44.

II. Construction

This section describes how the manuscript was made. The leaves (folios) of a manuscript were combined to form quires or gatherings. These gatherings would then have been sewn together to form a completed manuscript. The regular numbers under the rubric GATHERINGS indicate the number of quires, while the superscript numbers indicate how many leaves are contained in each quire. Thus, 1 10 - 16 10 would indicate that each of the first sixteen quires contains ten leaves. The numbers under the rubric FOLIOS indicate the folio numbers contained in a specific group of quires. Each text contained in the manuscript is listed under CONTENTS along with its respective folio numbers (in parentheses). For a discussion on the formation of quires, see De Hamel, p. 89.

III. Preparation of the Page

This section describes how each folio was prepared before writing began. The scribe would usually have made pricking marks with a sharp instrument in order to provide for uniform ruling. The lines were usually drawn by an instrument known as lead point, or plummet. This instrument was one of the writing tools known as metal point. The mark made by the instrument varied in appearance according to the type of metal used. In this section, one will find a description of the pricking marks, ruling and size and format of the writing space. In addition, this section contains a description of any chainmarks and watermarks present on any paper contained in the manuscript. For a discussion of the various instruments of pricking and ruling, see Thompson, p. 43 and Bischoff, pp. 18-19. For a discussion of chainmarks and watermarks, see Briquet, vol. I, pp. 20-36.

IV. Text

A. Contents

This section contains a listing of the major sections of each text contained in the manuscript and their corresponding folio numbers. In addition, the incipits and explicits (beginning and ending words) of each section are given under the relevant section title. A discussion of each text follows the relevant content listing. This discussion includes biographical information on the author of the text (if known), information on the identification of the text and author (if either is in question) and information concerning the completeness of the copy of the text contained in the manuscript.

B. Script

This section contains a description of the script of the manuscript. Scripts often differed in their ductus according to place and time period of origin. Ductus refers to the "way in which a script is written, its speed and care of execution and formation of letters." (Brown, p. 8) This section also includes a discussion of the script tradition in which the manuscript was written (e.g., Protogothic, Gothic, Humanistic). For a discussion of scripts and their various traditions (including national variations), see Brown and S.H. Thompson.

V. Decoration

This section contains information on a variety of types of decoration that might be added to a text. These include initials, paragraph signs, line endings and borders. For a discussion of such decorations, see De Hamel and Diringer.

VI. Illustration

This section contains information on any illustrations, such as miniatures, contained in the manuscript. This includes a discussion of the subject, materials and technique of the illustration. For a discussion of such illustrations, see De Hamel and Diringer.

VII. Binding

This section contains information on the binding of the manuscript. After a manuscript was completed, it was bound with any variety of materials and techniques, usually depending on place of origin. During the later Middle Ages and Renaissance, manuscripts were often bound in leather over wooden boards. The leather was then usually decorated with various designs using tools and stamps. Also, gold and jewels were sometimes added to the binding, usually depending on the preference of the person who commissioned the binding. For a discussion of bookbinding practices and national styles of bookbinding, see Diehl, pp. 59-164.

VIII. Additions to Manuscript

This section contains information about any additions made to the manuscript after its completion. This includes marginalia and other notes written on the binding or flyleaves.

IX. Provenance

This section contains information on the history of the manuscript's ownership. Such information might be discovered from examination of various parts of the manuscript, such as binding, coats-of-arms and names added to the manuscript at later dates. For a discussion of the various aspects of provenance research, see Pearson.


Last revision: 10/30/06 by N. Helmer
Created by Ian Rush for Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries
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