The Cambridge Fish Scribe

Signatures in manuscripts

The Perne & Ward Libraries

Although few medieval scribes signed their work, there are exceptions in Peterhouse manuscripts. One man entered his name three times in a collection of commentaries on Aristotle: ‘written by me Tydeman of the Kingdom of Sweden, the Province of Närke, at the University of Cambridge, Kingdom of England, in the year 1450’ ( MS 188). Another man who produced a number of manuscripts for Peterhouse between 1418 and 1440 would be anonymous except for a fish. He did not provide his name, but he consistently ‘signed’ his work by drawing a fish around the catchword(s) written on the last folio of each quire (gathering of folios).

Fish 'signature', MS 114, f. 8v Fish ‘signature’, MS 114, f. 8v

The catchword inside the fish is the first word on the next page, in this case, the completion of a proper name, Ami-nadab.

Catchword as first word on next page, MS 114, f. 9 Catchword as first word on next page, MS 114, f. 9

The fish was first…

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What Homer Can Tell Us About Modern War

What Homer Can Tell Us About Modern War

Charlotte Higgins (The Guardian) on the continuing relevance of a 3,000-year-old poem

Many wishing to make sense of wars in their own time have reached for The Iliad. Alexander the Great, perhaps the most flamboyantly successful soldier in history, slept beside a copy annotated by his tutor, Aristotle. “He esteemed it a perfect portable treasure of all military virtue and knowledge,” according to Plutarch’s biography. Simone Weil’s essay, “L’Iliade ou le poème de la force”, published in 1940, holds that “the true hero, the true ­subject at the centre of The Iliad is force”, which she defines as “that X that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing”.

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The Island Of Mystery – Part 1

the anonymous novelist

Today, I’m going to take you on a journey through history where you will become familiar with one of the most interesting cities in the ancient world.

Tyre, also know as Tyrus, from the root word Tzor, meaning rock for the rocky terrain on which it was built, was a Phoenician city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Tyre was also an island off the coast of the city. That island no longer exists. The island and city of Tyre was perfectly situated, the Tyrians were productive, laborious, and kind to travelers and traders. Tyrians invented navigation and, because they accepted all people, they were never known as a single people, but a group in possession of the best of the world.

For its position and wealth, the city has been under siege multiple times throughout the course of history. The first of these famous sieges was by Nebuchadnezzar…

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Hephaestion’s Remains – Update

The Second Achilles

Exactly one year ago I wrote a post for this blog in which I speculated about what might have happened to Hephaestion’s body after he died.

You can read the post here but in short, I said that I did not think that his magnificent funeral (Diodorus XVII.115) took place, and that after Alexander died, Hephaestion was probably quietly cremated and buried by the Successors in Babylon before being forgotten about.

When I wrote my post, I never imagined that a year on I would have reason to return to it. However, the discovery of a skeleton in the Lion Tomb at Amphipolis, and the suggestion that it could be Hephaestion’s, has drawn me back to the subject.

The person to whom I owe the idea that Hephaestion might be buried at Amphipolis is Dorothy King – see her post here.

As you’ll see, she theorises that the Lion Tomb was originally built for…

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Pointing out Passages in Gutenberg’s Bible

[ Dog Ear ] Magazine

Only 48 original copies of the Gutenberg Bible are known to exist in the world today; one of them can be found at the University of Texas at Austin Harry Ransom Center. The Ransom Center’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible is unique in many ways, most notably for it’s interesting and mysterious marginalia.

For example, one reader of the manuscript has scratched the year 1589 into the gilded ‘h’ at the beginning of Deuteronomy for reasons unknown.

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Another feature of the Bible is a drawing of a hand that literally points to a marginal inscription of verse from Jeremiah that has been added to Vol. 2 by another reader.

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Drawings of hands used to point to important passages in manuscript texts were already being used by scribes centuries before the printing of Gutenberg’s Bible. The example below is a scan from a thirteenth-century Latin Bible from England, predating the Gutenberg by about two…

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Literary Apps: Museums Without Walls?

Literary Apps: Museums Without Walls?

English Literary Heritage

281851582_979263862001_110606TheWastelandApp-4788967While web-based applications such as ‘Turning the Pages’ offer a good opportunity to access precious and rare manuscripts outside of formal, controlled environments, they do not necessarily provide a curated experience. In essence, they present single exhibits, individual manuscripts which do not have a narrative or interpretative shape. Yet, there is a growing trend in applications for tablet computers and other mobile devices, software that allows the user to explore a virtual exhibition of manuscripts and other material alongside original texts. These apps can be focused and curated, presenting an interpretative view of an author’s work and the archival materials surrounding its creation.

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The ‘Tremulous Hand of Worcester’

The Perne & Ward Libraries

Most of the older Oxbridge colleges have collections of manuscripts – the handwritten books that made up their reference libraries before the Reformation.  Peterhouse has a substantial collection, about 280 items, most of them still the College’s property, though a few strayed to other places in the course of the 16th and 17th centuries.  Not many Colleges have larger collections than this.  Trinity, with about 1500 items, is exceptional, but these came largely in the 17th century.  Peterhouse, on the contrary, has a complete library catalogue from 1418, and about half of the items in it still survive.  The survival of the catalogue itself is a piece of luck, and if did not exist we would be hard put to prove that very many of the surviving MSS were at Peterhouse as early as that.

Being handmade, MSS differ from printed books precisely in the fact that no two are…

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