Dragon prayer book, post № 1

I’m “adopting” Northeastern’s mediæval manuscript – the Dragon Prayer Book that our class is getting to know and love in the transcription exercise – for my “pet book” for this course. I have not had the opportunity to examine the codex in person, as it is currently on display as part of the Beyond Words exhibit at Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art. The physical description of the book is thus necessarily less detailed than I would prefer.

That said, the book—which the catalog dates to c. 1461—is a small, leather-bound codex, containing 290 parchment leaves (numbered in pencil in the upper right of each recto side by some later librarian). It has been rebound at some point, with more recent end-papers (which are, in fact, paper); these end-papers are watermarked with the arms of the Bavarian town of Regensburg. (Thanks to our classmate Laura Packard for bringing the watermark to my attention.)

The text of the book is (mostly) Latin, written in a Gothic (textura) quadrata bookhand, with fifteen lines per page. The first page of the book contains a seven-line “historiated” initial, containing an illustration of a dragon (whence the book’s nickname); throughout the text, red and blue capitals are common, as are two-line initials in red and blue, along with the occasional three-line illuminated initial.

Between folios 10 and 11 is a small parchment insert containing nine lines written in a Gothic rotunda bookhand, which contrasts strongly with quadrata of the book itself:

[image of folio 11 recto with insert overlaid]

There is also at least one emendation (folio 26 verso) in another hand which bears some resemblance to Humanist script.

A peculiarity of the quadrata hand employed by one of the book’s scribes is the use of two different forms of the letter a. The words maria exorta on folio 1 recto show both forms:

maria exorta

The form used in exorta is the more usual Gothic letter form; that used for both as in maria is quite distinct and more closely resembles the capital As used in the book. A brief search has not uncovered any other examples of such use of a “small-cap” A in other manuscripts, though it is unlikely to be unique; I can find no pattern to when this scribe uses either letter form.

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