Scribal Arts

Calligraphy, illumination, paper making, bookbinding, printing, and related sciences and arts

Securing the precious Magna Carta

Chris Woods, director of the  British National Conservation Service, has a daunting task: to assure the safety of the precious Lincoln Magna Carta during its tour through the United States in 2014.

New BM digitization includes medieval "comic book"

Among over 1000 new manuscripts placed online by the British Museum is The Guthlac Roll, a history of St. Guthlac told in graphic novel style "using a series of images in roundels with labels." Mark Strauss of i09 offers his views on the manuscript.

Hengwrt Chaucer online

The earliest known manuscript of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, housed at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, has been digitized and is now available online. (photo)

15th century Torah sold at auction for US$3.87 million

“The volume represents the very first appearance in print of all five books of the Pentateuch as well as the first to which vocalization and cantillation marks have been added,” said the Christie's auction house catalogue about the sale of a Torah, printed in Hebrew in Bologna in January 1482. An anonymous buyer paid US$3.87 million for the book. (photo)

St. Sabas seal found in Jerusalem

St. Sabas, a leader of the monastic movement, was a very important person in Jerusalem during the Middle Ages. Recently a lead seal, bearing his image and dating to the 13th century, was discovered during an archaeological dig in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood of Jerusalem. (photo)

Getty art books for download

Silfren, from the Kingdom of Lochac, reports that the Getty Publications Archives is offering free digital backlist titles for download. Items available include exhibition catalogs and symposium papers as well as art books.

British books barred from leaving England

The British Library has been successful in acquiring the Catholicon Anglicum, a 15th-century English-Latin dictionary, and a printed traictise owned and annotated by John Ponet, thanks to the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest which barred the books from export.

Japanese IT company to digitize more Vatican documents

The Vatican Library processes many requests to use documents and manuscripts from its enormous collection, but the increased requests have led to fear that the fragile documents will be damaged. Enter NTT DATA, a Japanese IT company who has been contracted to digitize 3,000 manuscripts at a cost of 18 million euros (US $22.6 million).

Letters of Wallace and Robert the Bruce on display at Stirling Castle

700 years ago the fate of Scotland was being decided. Now, history buffs will be able to read the words of those concerned in the historic events at an exhibit of letters of Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, and others, at Stirling Castle. The exhibition runs until June 2014. (photo)

State Library of Victoria completes digitization project

The State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia has just completed a project to digitize medieval and renaissance manuscripts from its own collection as well as some from the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery. The manuscripts are available to view on the library's website.

It's six books in one!

Medieval bookbinders may have been the precursors of eReaders when they developed the dos-à-dos (or "back-to-back") book with two or more separate texts and multi-hinged covers. One example is the beautiful devotional dos-à-dos book owned by the National Library of Sweden which includes six works. (photos)

Kitty 1; scribe 0

Any cat owner who participates in needlework or scribal arts will sympathize with a 15th century Dutch monk who indicated a stain on his work and wrote "Cursed be the pesty cat that urinated over this book." (photo)

"Cradle of the law" to display Magna Carta

In 1214, English barons met in Suffolk to discuss King John and the Magna Carta, a year before it was signed in Surrey. Now the Bury Society will celebrate the event with a display of an original copy of the document at St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds.

Illuminated almanac: 15th century iPad?

The Wellcome Library has acquired a rare medical almanac, a "combined calendar, astrological chart and medical textbook," that compacts into a small, folded strip, for UK£100,000 from the Edith Sitwell collection. The illuminated alamnac is believed to have been produced in an English workshop in the early 15th century. (photo)

Matilda Bosvyle de Bella Acqua made Laurel in AEthelmearc

Kameshima Zentarou Umakai, Silver Buccle Principal Herald, reports that at Their Court at the Feast of the Seven Deadly Sins, Their Majesties Timothy and Gabrielle, of the Kingdom of AEthelmearc, offered elevation to the order of the Laurel to Mistress Matilda Bosvyle de Bella Acqua.

Life of King Sawlu told on tablet

Archaeologists working at a site near Mandalay, Burma are excited by the discovery of a 900-year-old stone tablet describing the life of little known Burmese king Sawlu. The tablet acknowleges that the king "ruled the nation by the teachings of Lord Buddha" and mentions a monastery built by donations from Sawlu's wife. (photo)

Cambridge hopes to acquire Codex Zacynthius

In 1821, the Bible Society, in Swindon, England was presented with the Codex Zacynthius, a 6th or 7th century Gospel of Luke. Now the Society is offering the Bible for sale, with Cambridge University as its buyer of choice. In order to acquire the manuscript, Cambridge will need to raise UK£1.1m. (photo)

"Honor and respect" demonstrated at museum medieval fair

The Canton Museum of Art in Canton, Ohio recently held an exhibition entitled Illuminating the World: The Saint John's Bible, centered around a display of the Saint John's Bible, a medieval bible made with modern techniques. In conjunction with the exhibit, the museum hosted a medieval festival featuring members of the Marche of Alderford, the local chapter of the SCA. (photo)

Upcoming Known World events

Master Raven Mayne reports that several Known World events for the Society for Creative Anachronism have been scheduled for 2014.

Book of Aneirin goes online

The National Library of Wales has announced that it has made the 13th century Book of Aneirin available online. The manuscript, scribed by monks onto animal skin, is regarded as one of the most important books in the Welsh language.

Lewis-Gibson Genizah Collection: "a unique and vibrant window into a lost age"

In 1896, twin sisters Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Gibson brought a collection of Hebrew and Arabic manuscripts from Egypt and deposited them at the United Reform Church's Westminster College in England. Recently Oxford and Cambridge Universities teamed to buy the collection at auction for UK£1.2m.

Geneva Breeches Bible stolen from Welsh church

Thieves of a rare 16th century bible must have had a guilty conscience when they left a modern replacement bible in a locked case in St Mary's church in Trefriw, Wales. The Geneva Breeches Bible was produced by Protestants in Switzerland in 1589.

Steppes 12th Night 2013 photos online

Caelin on Andrede reports that he has created two large albums of photos from Steppes 12th Night which took place recently in the Kingdom of Ansteorra. The photos are available on Flickr.

Drachenwald Winter 2014 Coronation photos online

Bridget Greywolf reports that she has created an album of photos from  Drachenwald 2014 Winter Coronation which took place recently in Sweden. The photos are available on her public Facebook page.

Vatican teams with Bodleian for US$3.2 million digitization project

Thanks to a US$3.2 million grant from the Polonsky Foundation, rare manuscripts from the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana will be digitized and made available online through both libraries. NPR's Annaliese Quinn has the story and interview.

3D X-ray to reveal secrets of "unreadable" scroll

"Having the chance to unlock a part of Norfolk history which has been closed to us for maybe hundreds of years feels very special," said Gary Tuson, from the Norfolk Records Office about plans to x-ray a 15th century scroll that is too delicate to unroll.

Old Masters Week to feature sale of the Rothschild Prayerbook

Representatives from Christie's auction house in New York have announced that the centerpiece of its January 2014 Old Masters Week auctions will be The Rothschild Prayerbook, considered to be "the finest illuminated manuscript in private hands." The manuscript was created for a member of the Dutch court in 1505. (photo)

What's with the snails?

In a blog article for Smithsonian, Colin Schultz wonders why in English manuscripts from the 13th and 14th centuries, knights are always fighting snails. (photos)

Medieval Handwriting: a Google app

Google has annonced that it now has an Android app for Medieval Handwriting.

The allure of the sea monster

For medieval people, the ocean was the ultimate mystery, as were the creatures that lived there - in truth and in the imagination. Many of these creatures were depicted on medieval maps, the subject of two new books reviewed on Smithsonian's Collage of Arts and Sciences blog.