Methods of the Manuscript

In the past few weeks, as we have continued our study of the Dragon Prayer Book, we have begun learning about transcription. Although the prayer book is still at the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC), we have several photographs of the first page, which Lexi, Anna, and I have each tried to transcribe. Since much of the first page contains scribal abbreviations in Latin, we know that whoever wrote the first page was adept at understanding and making use of the many available abbreviations, and the original owner of the prayer book likely was as well. As a first year English major, I have very little experience with scribal abbreviations. So, before I could begin to transcribe the text, I had to understand the methods used by the scribe(s) when creating the prayer book. Professor Boeckeler likens medieval scribes to “professional texters,” for their tendency to frequently abbreviate common words and phrases. Today, people who text often abbreviate for convenience or because of character limits, and these abbreviations have become a part of our language, which leads me to wonder about the effects scribal abbreviations had on language and culture in the 15th century. Did scribes abbreviate for the same reasons as modern day texters? Documenting and working to understand our scribe’s (or scribes’) methods has been a key part of this project for me, as I think it will continue to be, especially once the prayer book returns to Northeastern’s Archives and Special Collections and we are able to interact with the entire text. To better understand our first scribe, I’ve begun compiling an alphabet with screenshots of the letters on the first page of the prayer book,  which has helped with deciphering individual letters (see: ManuscriptAlphabet). As we continue to study the prayer book, I hope to learn more about our scribe (or scribes), as well as the book’s history and the methods used to create both the book and the calligraphy within.




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