Week 5

Week five turned out to be a productive week for me at the Special Collections, but a major glitch resulted in a minor setback at the archives.  I was happy to encounter more challenging but rewarding manuscripts in the collection at Waldo. In particular, MS 26 (pictured here) turned out to be a really interesting 12th-century bifolium fragment. A “bifolium” is the term for two conjugate leaves from a book. “Bifolia” is the plural of “bifolium”. In this case MS 26 was a bifolium that had been removed from a larger manuscript and subsequently used as the cover for a small book. This was clear because of the way that it has been cut at each corner and because of the fold lines which correspond to the turn-ins. Using parchment from old unwanted manuscripts as binding material was a not uncommon practice throughout the middle ages and into the early modern era.

At another point in this bifolium’s history it was deemed more valuable for its textual content than as a cover and was removed for sale. This likely occured sometime in the modern era. Whoever sold this item to our library identified the text as a fragment of Gregory the Great’s Homilies on the Gospels. The fragment has the number “xxxviii” above the second set of columns of text which led the seller to conclude that it was from that chapter of the work. The work of identifying the text is impressive, but the seller was misled by the number.  After doing some investigating of my own I determined that that number refers to the first column of text, while the second column actually is from Gregory’s 13th chapter. How could a column of text from the 38th chapter be immediatly next to a column from the 13th? In this case, the best answer is that the two leaves probably made up the first and last leaves of a gathering.  This kind of detective work is what makes cataloging medieval manuscripts so much fun.  

I am happy to report that I have created uniform descriptions for 26 of the 40 manuscripts in the collection, which means that I am right on target for completing the project before the end of July.

In regards to my work at the archives: on monday there was a glitch in the Conexxion cataloging program which took a few days to fix and resulted in the loss of several records–basically 1/2 days worth.  Apparantly this kind of thing happens occasionally and the only way to fix the problem is to restore the system to an earlier point. This was a good reminder for me to always save my records while I’m working on them, and not just after I’ve completed one.

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