Pet Book Report #7: Blank Spaces and the Dragon Prayer Book

Pet Book Report #7: Blank Spaces and the Dragon Prayer Book

Although I could find no blanks like the empty spaces in blank books in the Dragon Prayer Book, the prayer book does contain several lacunae– holes in the pages which are both unfilled and unfillable. These holes act as both the opposite of a blank– as they block a scribe from writing in that space– and as a permanent blank, a place where writing is neither encouraged (like a blank on a document left to be filled in) nor possible. On page 0053 of the prayer book, a lacuna rests above a ruled line, acting as a blank space which has been removed from the page (picture A).

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Picture A: lacuna found on line 8 of page 0053 of the Dragon Prayer Book

 

When I thought about the examples of job printing, such as tickets, receipts, and notices, I was reminded of page 0036 of the Dragon Prayer Book, a small piece of vellum with calligraphy in style which differs from that of the rest of the prayer book (picture B). I haven’t been able to work out what is written on this loose page, so there is a chance this page could be a piece of scribal job printing, although it is likely not a receipt, ticket, or notice. What leads me to think this page could be a piece of medieval (or later) job printing (inscribing) is how this page seems to be its own entity with a heading and ending. And, the different script style and the lack of ruling, along with shape of the vellum page (which was not evenly cut) leads me to believe that this was a note created informally. Still, we won’t know definitively until the page has been transcribed and translated. 

Picture B: loose page from the prayer book

Picture B: loose page from the prayer book

In “Preface” and “A Short History of __________” from Paper Knowledge, Lisa Gitelman writes: “Many blank books—though not all—were ruled, their pages lined in expectation of particular uses, as if in standing reserve for the document they are to become” (Gitelman 23). The prayer book, too, was ruled, its pages lined by scribes who would later use these blanks to guide their calligraphy. These visible lines– what blank books and the prayer book share, and what most print books lack– are constrictive in that the writing between them is expected to be no larger than the space allotted. Though not often present in print books, a gap still exists between each line of text, so the page seems to be ruled with blank space. And as Gitelman states, “when printers set type (the “matter”) and then made up what they called the forme or form, they had to put in spacers—the “furniture”—to create blank space in and around the ultimate printed material,” so these blank spaces were not empty at all (Gitelman 36). Yet on the page, the space between printed text seems to be the absence of the lines between the text written by scribes.

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