I’ve been looking at another book that a student was working on. It’s unprepossessing on the outside, just a small, worn brown leather binding, with the remains of ties that have long since disappeared. But the book is much more interesting on the inside. Take a gander at some of the photos I snapped (I did these with my cell phone, so they’re not super high quality, but they’re not too bad either):
The whole book is like this, covered with marginalia. There are manicules, trefoils, asterisks, notes more and less extensive. It’s a seriously used book.
And do you know who used this book so seriously? He inscribed his name right there on the title page:
O rare Ben Jonson! And while Jonson’s book when he used it might seem unprepossessing, later owners certainly valued it for its association and house it accordingly, in its own locked box.
There’s much more to be said about Jonson and his books but I wanted to get these pictures up before they burned a hole in my pocket. § continue reading →
A quick but important announcement first: I am hosting the next early modern edition of Carnivalesque. Please nominate your favorite early modern blog posts by using the Carnivalesque nomination form, commenting here, or by emailing me directly (you can find my email address through my profile). The no-holds-barred Carnival fun and wisdom is scheduled for publication on March 21st, so get me pointed in the right direction now!
And that last bit is my not very subtle transition to the lovely pictures below. I promised my last commenter that I would follow up that great pointing forefinger (or Fonz’s thumb, depending on your tastes) with some more examples. So here’s another great set of pointing fingers, this time complete with fancy ruffles. This is from a 1475 commentary on Aristotle–again, more commentary on commentary, as we saw with the Boethius. Some genres of writing would seem to invite more pointing notes than others.
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I failed to include any pretty pictures in my last post, so now I give you this:
It’s a page opening from Boethius’s De consolatione philosophiae, printed in 1498 in Venice. Actually, that’s a completely inadequate description of what we’re looking at. And that’s one of the reasons I like this image–there is a lot to see when you look at this book. For starters, there is the text in the large font, printed in several blocks over the two pages. That text is Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, written around AD 524 while Boethius is imprisoned and awaiting trial for treason, for which he was to be executed. It was a highly influential piece in the medieval and early modern worlds, one that was studied and passed on in manuscripts and, eventually, printed texts. (You can find an online edition and an English translation at the University of Virginia Library’s Electronic Text Center.)
Evidence of the traditions of commentary on Boethius’s text can be seen in how it is presented on the page. § continue reading →