Formally, a manuscript is a hand-written document, and an illuminated manuscript is a handwritten document decorated in or with precious metals, such as gold or sparkling jewels. But the informal measure of a manuscript tends toward something altogether different. Somewhat akin to my passion for books before my History of the Book class and the formal, true, illuminated passion I now possess, is the difference between what the general populace thinks a manuscript is and what it really is–its nuance, its depth, its ability to cause obsession. That is now my lot, thanks to the University of Nottingham School of English.
Who knew? Really, I guess I did. I just never acknowledged it to an extent that led me to study so profusely and profoundly and so productively. I have always liked–nay, loved, I have loved–books and all kinds of paper. I have loved inks and texts, scripts, bindings, impressed leathers (a recent discovery, but a love nonetheless), manual production, for as long as I can remember, in one way or form or another. Whether it was snipping sheets of paper into tiny rectangles in order to staple them back together again in a crudely bound form, or that collection of quills, pen nibs, sealing wax and inks in my middle desk-drawer and this fetish I’ve cultivated for touching the cotton stock at the art store. I am hooked.
Hooked, I tell you. And according to my brilliant tutor, Joanna Martin, that’s the least of it. An all-out obsession (as noted above) awaits. I do not intend to staunch it.
This is what drives my days, these days:
And words like the one above: paleography, and colophon, and miniscule and minim, and minium and rubrication and codex and codices. And Chaucer, for whom I have only until now had a sort of passing respect, is climbing in importance. So are people whose names I will never know, but who penned or fabricated or outlined or decorated the beauties I pore over.
Today I realized that this is what I want to do. I want to study manuscripts. I am 40 years old and it took me all this time to get my sh*t together to figure this out. So, off I go then, to describe the Gothic Textura, to learn how it differed from the Anglicana script (and all of its variations). Delightful.