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Pen trials and signatures, in a Glossed Genesis

Pen trials and signatures, in a Glossed Genesis

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1175

Shelfmark: Additional MS 63077

Item number: f.106v

Length: 26

Width: 18.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

In the Middle Ages the Bible was the subject of most learning and writing because it was the basis of Christian theology. It provided the foundation of study of history, science, and language as well. The Book of Genesis was especially important because it told of the beginnings and the human fall from grace. By the 12th century, biblical commentary had developed into a complex body of knowledge which still had to be redigested in order to deal with changes and new issues. Theologians coped with the difficulties by dividing knowledge into categories and organising it as units. Their books reflected these changes in their graphic layout. This copy of Genesis from Rievaulx has an extensive gloss or commentary, but instead of writing the gloss between the lines or in margins as had been done earlier, the main text is written in a narrow column in the centre of the page with the commentary on either side and above. The main text is written in a larger script, the gloss by different scribes in smaller script. On the last page of the manuscript the different scripts are clear. One is a more angular one and below it is a more rounded one. Lots of blank space was left over, providing a convenient place for 15th- and 16th-century scribes to try out their pens and metalpoint pencils. Some of the pen trials take the form of prayers, others record the names of monks, such as 'Richardus Gyllyng monachus Rievallys' (Richard Gilling monk of Rievaulx'). The bottom of the page was cut away, possibly for use in binding or repairing.

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