Thursday, January 20, 2011

MS Photos!

Don't count on me always posting twice in two days--I definitely do not have
that much free time--but I was excited and just had to make a short addendum to my previous post. I have just learned how to add photos to this blog, and as my classmate Ben was kind enough to let me borrow his flatmate's camera to take photos of the MS today (which is permitted, as long as no flash is used), I thought I would share a couple of interesting ones. To the left we have fol 84 v, the final leaf, which contains Robert Brewster's witness of Will Bloys's claim to ownership of this book. You can probably just barely make it out in a slightly darker ink than the other scribbles on the page. The brown smears are actually places where the acidic ink is eating through the paper--a common problem with MSS, and highly inconvenient, is that they eventually self-destruct!

To the right we have that delightful list of words, including "crapulosity," compiled by one of my favourite hands--certainly the most legible in the collection, and one whose comments tend to be humorous or whimsical. And, obviously, he is interested in language, which makes me like him (I say him, by the way, because women were not able to go to university then, and it is highly unlikely that they would have had occasion to write in young gentlemen's note books). I determined today that there are probably actually six hands present in the MS. This one tends to write almost exclusively in dark ink and in straight, clear, very modern-looking letters.

In marked contrast is this next hand, below, which I have taken to calling The Poet, as he usually either copies down poetry he has read or composes his own (at least, I cannot determine it to be anyone else's). Some of it is quite good, and may end up in my paper.
In this photo of fol. 15 v. he has copied a short poem by William Strode, "Oft when I looke I may descrye." Note the use of J in place of I. He also likes to use abbreviations, and he varies his letter forms at random, so he can get pretty tricky to read, but his is not the worst hand in the MS.

Sigh, I know that wasn't much, but I really ought to be getting to bed (it is post-midnight yet again! This is not a good way to start the term...) but I will leave you with one final photo. There are many to choose from, and there are like to be more once I know what I am looking for, but for now this will be enough to give you a taste (and hopefully not enough to get me into any real trouble in case I am breaking any laws in making this public). Below is a photo of a full pagewith at least five hands on it. I know the image is not very big, but you can probably tell at least that there are different colours, and that some writing is sideways and some is
upside-down. These students, whoever they were, made really good use of their paper--which is to be expected, as paper was quite expensive back then. It is pages like these (and this is what most of them look like, except with even less blank space) that keep me twisting in my chair and turning the MS this way and that in my hands, instead of leaving it on its foam rests like I am generally supposed to. It's more durable than you'd think, and though I am very careful with it, I am always impressed by how well it has survived the centuries since it was written (the earliest date I have found in it so far is 1647).

Hopefully I will have more to say soon, both about the manuscript and about the rest of my life. Right now it is mainly reading, rowing, and investigating my friend 142, with occasional forays into the kitchen (I made chocolate-covered cashew clusters tonight, just because I could). Oh, and now and then, when there is time, I sleep. Which is what I am going to do now. Good night, all!

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