Pet Book Response #2 – Dragon Prayer Book
This week in class, we focused on manuscript studies with the Dragon Prayer Book as our case study. While I found the Clemens and Graham reading to be enlightening, I think that Clemens and Graham sometimes oversimplify manuscript studies. One example of oversimplification in this week’s reading is Clemens and Graham’s description of calfskin in comparison with sheepskin. They explain how “parchment from calfskin tends to be whiter or creamier in color and may show a prominent pattern of veins” whereas “parchment… from sheepskin is often yellowish and may be somewhat greasy or shiny in some areas” (9). However, in the case of the Dragon Prayer Book, many of the pages, especially the corners of the pages, have turned a brownish-yellow color from the oils of many human hands. From what I have read, Clemens and Graham do not encourage their readers to consider other reasons why the parchment might be more yellow than white. I think this is a mistake, because novice manuscript scholars are likely to connect this example to their manuscript before pursuing a deeper study of their manuscript’s pages. One of the things I did appreciate in the Clemens and Graham reading was the useful list of scribal abbreviations. Although this list is short, Clemens and Graham mention Capelli’s dictionary of abbreviations, and several other resources.
On Wednesday of this week, we visited the Boston Public Library (BPL) and investigated other examples of manuscripts. One manuscript in particular was very similar to the Dragon Prayer Book. This “twin” prayer book served as a sort of foil to the Dragon Prayer Book, helping me to see what parts of the Dragon Prayer Book stood out. While both prayer books lack illumination and contain similar styles of calligraphy, the Dragon Prayer Book’s twin’s binding was incredibly plain and unadorned. The Dragon Prayer Book’s cover is stamped with flowers and an image of the crucifixion, but it’s twin’s cover has barely any markings at all. This difference led me to question the purpose of each book’s bindings. If both books have similar decorations inside and were created for a similar price (which I do not know for sure), why would one book’s binding be so detailed while the other’s was left unmarked? We know that the Dragon Prayer Book was rebound, and it looked as if this other manuscript was rebound as well. Perhaps the person in possession of the Dragon Prayer Book at the time of its rebinding was wealthier than the person in possession of its BPL twin? Or, perhaps there were illuminated pages in Dragon Prayer Book, which its owner wanted to protect (and which are now missing from the book), though I hesitate to assume this to be the case.
During the course of this week, I made several discoveries about the Dragon Prayer Book. While looking through the later pages of the prayer book, I found marginalia which was repeated every nine pages or so on the bottom of the page. The writing looks to be of three words, each beginning with a capital letter. At first, I thought that the marginalia might be names of people, but the words most often repeated look to be “Slon” and “Inn” which do not seem like first names. I tried to research these words, but have found nothing so far. Later this week, I found the word for the semi-colon like punctuation mark which I have seen repeated throughout the prayer book: punctus flexus. Lastly, I noticed that the hyphens used on the small loose page in the prayer book are different from the hyphens which are used throughout the rest of the prayer book. This leads me to believe that this small loose page was created after, and separately from, the rest of Dragon Prayer Book.