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Text transcript of Tutorial No.4 - Interpret MS Descriptions

[In this module, each slide is a cloud superimposed on the manuscript description for MS 144. In each case the relevant part of the description should be circled. Site the cloud on each slide so that it does not obscure the highlighted part of the description. There is no animation in this module.]

Each manuscript description on this site is based on M. R. James's catalogue. James in turn made heavy use of the pre-existing 18th-century Latin catalogue by Nasmith, often quoting from it extensively. Information not otherwise marked with its origin comes from James. Information James took verbatim from Nasmith is highlighted and marked 'Nasmith'. For more information about the various catalogues of the Parker Library, return to the General Information tutorial, or see the About Catalogues page.

Manuscript number: This is the shelfmark, which distinguishes the manuscript from others in the collection. The correct way to cite manuscript 144 in the Parker Library is: Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS. 144.

Titles: James gave most of the manuscripts he described a title, usually in Latin. James's title has been retained on this site, but appears here below a new title, usually in English, created by the project staff. Conventions governing the new titles were: (1) if the manuscript only contains one or a few texts, then the title is usually the author(s) and text(s). When a manuscript contains many texts the new title is often a general summary, e.g. "Computistical material". When a manuscript is well-known by a common name, e.g. "The Red Book of Darley", or "The Corpus Glossary", that common name is used as you can see here. The new title, marked CCCC, is intended to be a useful description, and to give some sense of the manuscript's content.

Codicology: This section is taken from James's description of the manuscript as a physical object. In this description "vellum" is the type of material that was used to make the manuscript. (See the Glossary for additional information about vellum and paper.) Height precedes width in the dimensions statement. Metric dimensions have been added by the project team; James's dimensions in inches have been left visible. James also gave the extent of the manuscript, indicating how many folios it contains. This statement (e.g., ff. 65 + 3) should be read as 65 folios in the body of the manuscript plus three flyleaves. Note that the extent statement records quantity, not arrangement, however -- the three flyleaves were not necessarily all at the manuscript's end. (See the Foliation note below for more information.) James also gave information about page layout and assigned a date. The date is not always very specific; it depended on James's view of the manuscript. For information on more recent scholarship on the dating of the manuscript see the comments attached to items of bibliography. If James commented on hands or illumination, such comments are also included here.

Collation: The collation statement relates to the construction of medieval books. A medieval codex, like a modern hardcover book, is made of many small booklets bound together. Such booklets, known as quires, and individual folios in quires, could be added, subtracted, moved from one book to another, or rearranged. A collation statement describes the quires within the volume. For example, in the collation statement for MS 144, I8-VII8 VIII8 (+1) means that the first seven quires of the manuscript each have eight folios (made of four sheets folded together, providing sixteen pages), while the eighth quire has eight folios plus an extra single folio.

2 fo.: Here James gives the first few words of the second folio of the manuscript. Because this statement was often used by medieval cataloguers to distinguish different copies of the same texts, modern cataloguers often give it as an identification aid for comparing surviving manuscripts with those mentioned in medieval catalogues.

Provenance: This statement includes all the information that James recorded about the previous ownership of the manuscript. Sometimes this information has been compiled from different parts of James's original description. The provenance statement may contain links to specific manuscript pages.

Research: Here you will find James' discussion of research into the manuscript, most commonly a summary of existing scholarship employed by James in his catalogue. Where James provided a bibliographical reference (often in an abbreviated form) this functions as a link that you can click on to take you to the full reference for the work cited. Of course you will find more up-to-date references in the Bibliography for each manuscript.

Writing and Decoration: James occasionally made specific comments on the script or decoration of a manuscript as a whole, though, as a rule, such matters are included in his description of individual items within the manuscript. Where he did make more general comments, they are found under the headings 'Writing' and 'Decoration'.

Foliation: This statement represents the foliation or pagination of the manuscript in detail, including any modern paper flyleaves that were added to the manuscript since James wrote. The statement follows the order in which the folios or pages are found in the book, and corresponds exactly to the page images available on the site.

Language: Project staff have provided this list of the languages represented in each manuscript.

Contents: Following his general description of the whole manuscript, James often gives more specific information about parts of the manuscript, or about individual pages. This is usually divided into several separate items. For each item the description gives a span of folios or pages, and a title. If the item has a title provided by the CCCC team or by Nasmith, rather than by James, this is indicated in the usual way. The Project staff have provided item titles which in some cases differ noticeably from those of James or Nasmith. These changed titles result from new attributions of authorship and standardisation of text titles derived from the hundred years of research since the James catalogue was written. You will often find incipits, explicits and rubrics in this section. Descriptions of decorations (e.g., initials and miniatures) are also most frequently found here.