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Arundel MS 159, f. 1v Egerton MS 2902, f. 14v

A SERVICE BOOK containing the prayers recited by the celebrant during high MASS (collect, secret, postcommunion, and the canon of the mass). The other parts of the mass are contained in the GOSPEL BOOK or EVANGELARY, the EPISTOLARY, and the GRADUAL. The texts of the sacramentary are divided into the unchanging elements (the canon and ordinary of the mass) and the variable texts, the latter arranged according to the liturgical year. Further divisions are the Common of Saints (standard formulae for saints who were not accorded individual services) and votive masses for special occasions, such as marriage. The Te igitur and Vere dignum openings were principal vehicles for ILLUMINATION.

Several distinct rites were current in the West before c. 700, the two most influential being the Roman and the Gallican. The former was followed in Rome and southern Italy and the latter in much of the rest of Western Europe. By 700 the Roman sacramentary had reached Gaul, where it was modified by Gallican usage. This mixture of rites resulted in the Gelasian Sacramentary (spuriously attributed to the late fifth-century Pope Gelasius I). As part of his efforts to standardize church ritual in the CAROLINGIAN period, Charlemagne asked Pope Hadrian I to provide an authentic Roman sacramentary for use throughout the empire. In 785-86, the pope sent the emperor the Sacramentarium Hadrianum, also known as the Gregorian Sacramentary. This, however, was a special sacramentary for papal use. In order to adapt it for general use, scholars such as Alcuin of York and Benedict of Aniane added supplementary material drawn from the Gallican and Gelasian rites. By the late thirteenth century, the sacramentary had virtually been replaced by the MISSAL.


Yates Thompson MS 26, f. 45v

Narratives of the lives (vitae) of the saints formed a popular genre from the early Middle Ages on. As holy figures continued to be canonized throughout the Middle Ages, new lives were composed and translations were made into the VERNACULAR. Many of the early lives were incorporated into the MARTYROLOGY for use as readings in the DIVINE OFFICE. Hagiography (the biography of saints) formed an essential part of the ecclesiastical library and was also a popular source for reading among the laity.


The celebration of saints' feasts, except for those falling between December 24 and January 13, also known as the Proper of Saints. The term sanctorale also refers to the section of a liturgical book containing the texts for those celebrations. Because the saints' feasts falling between December 24 and January 13 were so closely identified with the Christmas season, they were included in the TEMPORALE, usually a separate section in medieval liturgical manuscripts. The Common of Saints is another separate section, giving formulae for the saints not accorded individual services in the sanctorale or temporale. For the MASS, the temporale, sanctorale, and Common of Saints (along with votive masses for special occasions) provide the annual cycle of variable elements, the invariables being the canon and ordinary of the mass.


A fifteenth-century style of BORDER in which accurately depicted items such as flowers and insects are scattered across its surface, which is often gilded. Sometimes also known as STREW or TROMPE L'OEIL borders.


A book made for use in teaching within an ecclesiastical or university context. School books can be identified from annotations and other markings made for study purposes. Their production increased greatly with the rise of universities around 1200. STATIONERS emerged as the chief purveyors of such works, which were often (but not necessarily) quite modestly and cheaply produced, sometimes using the PECIA SYSTEM. The subjects of school books varied, from biblical and PATRISTIC works and COMMENTARIES, to treatises on grammar, mathematics, astronomy, legal texts (see DECRETALS and DIGEST), MEDICAL TEXTS, and CLASSICAL TEXTS.


A group of artists whose work is stylistically related. Because the identification of individual ILLUMINATORS can be very difficult, the decoration of a given manuscript will often be attributed to a school of illumination. Not a school or academy in the modern sense, a school of illumination is most commonly named after a place where the works were produced (for example, the Ghent-Bruges School) or after a particularly important or representative manuscript (such as the Queen Mary Group, named after the Queen Mary PSALTER).


Harley MS 2820, f. 78

A person engaged in the physical writing of books or documents. A number of scribes were also artists. In ANTIQUITY, scribes and notaries constituted a professional class. During the EARLY CHRISTIAN period and the Middle Ages, they often worked within an ecclesiastical SCRIPTORIUM as part of a team, or were attached to a court or an official chancery (a record office). Documents continued to be produced by independent scribes in certain areas, although to a very limited extent. Following the rise of the universities around 1200, scribes began to function independently, living alongside each other in urban centres and sometimes joining minor clerical orders. Both men and women served as scribes, and occasionally authors were themselves competent scribes (for example, Petrarch and Christine de Pizan in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, respectively). Scribes sometimes employed assistants or colleagues on a project. They could even be attached to individual households. See also MONASTIC PRODUCTION and SECULAR PRODUCTION.


Egerton MS 2849, Part II, Tituli 81 to 87 Stowe MS 944, f. 44

The handwriting used in manuscripts. Medieval script was subject to greater discipline and more rigid rules and hierarchies than modern personal handwriting, for in early book production such professional or semi-professional handwriting had to serve many of the functions of modern print. The form and function of a book determined the overall appearance of a script - its aspect - the speed and care with which the letters were formed - its ductus - and the number of space-saving devices employed (notably ABBREVIATIONS). Seldom was the same grade of script used for, say, a liturgical manuscript and a document or SCHOOL BOOK. The cut and thickness of the PEN nib alters the appearance and degree of formality of a script; and writing materials generally influenced the development of letter forms. Majuscule scripts employ what can be thought of as 'uppercase' letters and are of generally even height. This script is also termed bilinear, because the letters are confined between two horizontal lines. Minuscule scripts are 'lowercase', with longer strokes (ascenders and descenders) that extend above and below the body of the letter (as in d and q) and touch on four lines (quadrilinear script).

Initially majuscule scripts, comprising square and rustic capitals, uncials, and half-uncials, were used for more formal purposes than minuscule, but with the development of Caroline minuscule in CAROLINGIAN scriptoria in the late eighth century, even formal scripts were minuscules. The degree of formality now lay in the speed and care with which a script was written. Set scripts were slowly and carefully produced, with the SCRIBE frequently lifting the pen from the writing surface. Cursive scripts were written more rapidly with less lifting and sometimes include loops. Current scripts were the most rapidly written and informal and are often difficult to read. The more formal text scripts are generally termed formal book script, textualis, or textura (or variations such as Gothic black-letter script), while the less formal are termed cursives. The fusion of the formal and cursive styles gave rise to hybrid or bastard scripts. Beginning around 1400, the humanists (see HUMANISTIC) sought to reform medieval scripts, and in so doing laid the foundation for many early typefaces.


A writing room. The term is generally (but not exclusively) used of the place in a monastery or church where books are made.


Book production was a secular activity during ANTIQUITY, but from the EARLY CHRISTIAN period until the rise of the universities around 1200, it was largely conducted in ecclesiastical SCRIPTORIA. There is evidence, however, of continuing secular activity during the early Middle Ages, notably around St. Gall in Switzerland. It has also been suggested that secular itinerant artists participated in MONASTIC PRODUCTION. In addition, SCRIBES were attached to secular courts and households. With the growth in more specialized and commercialized book production after 1200, ILLUMINATORS, scribes, and the STATIONERS who supplied their materials and subcontracted work were usually LAY members of society - both men and women - although many were clerics in minor orders. Scribes, illuminators, stationers, and PARCHMENTERS often lived in the same urban neighbourhood and worked together on individual projects (see PECIA SYSTEM) or more regularly as part of a WORKSHOP. From the early Middle Ages on, secular people, usually aristocrats, participated in book production as PATRONS or as authors, some of them (such as Christine de Pizan in the early fifteenth century) actually copying their own works, a trend which flourished among the HUMANISTIC authors.


The opening words of the second FOLIO of a manuscript. Since these words differ from one copy of a text to another, depending on the size of the SCRIPT and folio, the secundo folio is often cited when cataloguing manuscripts, a practice that originated in the Middle Ages in order to distinguish individual copies of a text in a way that its opening words could not. May be abbreviated to 'sec. fol.' or '2o fo'.


A book (or portion of a GRADUAL or TROPER) containing sequences (extended melodies) sung by a soloist between the alleluia and the Gospel lesson at MASS.


Egerton MS 2977, f. 159v

A book used in the performance of the Christian LITURGY.


Note the cords linking the quires, Additional MS 49999, f. 48

The process of linking the QUIRES of a manuscript into book form by sewing them on to CORDS. This is the usual form of medieval BINDING.


The points in the GUTTER where the sewing needle travels through the fold to the outer edge of the SPINE in order to attach the QUIRE to the CORDS or to another quire.


Sgraffito is writing produced by scratching through a top layer of paint to reveal the underlying PIGMENT or writing surface.


Note the added list of contents and probable shelfmark CXIII, Arundel MS 217, f. 1 Shelf marks of the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Denis, near Paris: DH+ (13th century), and xxx.ix^c^.iiii^xx^xvi (15th century), Harley MS 3834, f. 2 Arundel MS 16, f. 2

A mark, often incorporating numbers, which indicates a book's location within a library. The shelf mark is frequently the designation by which individual manuscripts are known.


The place where one of the BOARDS of a book joins the SPINE.


Note the small line with two dots in the inner margin signalling that the cancelled lines should be replaced by the lines written beside the same symbol in the lower margin, Harley MS 1280, f. 313v

Literally a 'sign of return', a signe-de-renvoi is a graphic symbol marking a place where a correction or insertion is to be made. A corresponding symbol, usually written in the margin, introduces the corrected text or insertion. A signe-de-renvoi may also mark a cross-reference.


Lansdowne MS 860 B, f. 1v

A single FOLIO that has lost its mate (the other half of the BIFOLIUM) or that originally was designed to be sewn into a book as a single sheet. The latter situation could occur when the layout of the book did not require a text or image to follow immediately at that point, or when that folio carried work, such as a MINIATURE, which was executed by a separate member of the work team.


Additional MS 17144

The edge at which a book is sewn together. Rounded, glued spines that were hammered into shape were first introduced in the early sixteenth century. Prior to this, spines were flat, apart from the raised CORDS. Spines sometimes carry protective extensions at either end known as end tabs.



A metal fitting attaching the chain to one of the BOARDS of a CHAINED BOOK, usually at its HEAD.


Following the rise of the universities around 1200, the growth in SECULAR PRODUCTION and in consumer demand led to increasing specialization and commercialization in book production. A group of middlemen, known as stationers (cartolai in Italy, libraires in France), emerged. They supplied materials to craftsmen and received and subcontracted commissions, often with formal recognition from the universities. This decentralization stimulated new techniques of book production, such as the systematic marking up of leaves and QUIRES for assembly by the stationer and the provision of INSTRUCTIONS. See also PECIA SYSTEM.


The reconstruction of the 'family tree' of a text or program of ILLUMINATION, designed to indicate relationships among manuscripts and the existence of possible intermediary EXEMPLARS.


Egerton MS 3776

A device for keeping a book closed and preventing the distortion of its shape. The strap-and-pin mechanism, known from before 1200, consists of a small metal plate with a raised pin placed at the centre of one of the BOARDS; a long leather strap attached to the other board ends in a pierced metal tab designed to slot onto the corresponding pin. The use of two strap-and-pin mechanisms is characteristic of BINDINGS from the fourteenth century on in England and slightly earlier on the Continent. The pin was on the lower board in England and occasionally in France, but it was usually on the upper board on the Continent. Strap-and-pin mechanisms continued to be used into the early modern period. See also CLASP.



Stylized acanthus leaves, Harley MS 3729, f. 1

The stylized rendering of a painted subject is governed by non-naturalistic decorative conventions


A pointed implement, generally of metal or bone, used for writing on wax TABLETS. A stylus can also be used for PRICKING and RULING a manuscript. Some styli have triangular heads which, when heated, are used to smooth wax for reuse.


Suffrage to St John the Baptist, Sloane MS 2356, ff. 98v-99 Suffrages to  God the Father, Michael, John the Baptist, and John the Evangelist, Stowe MS 28, ff. 64v-65 Suffrage to St Michael, Egerton MS 2045, f. 254v

An intercessory prayer, sometimes called a memorial, addressed to a saint. A suffrage is preceded by an antiphon, a versicle, and a response, and may occur during the DIVINE OFFICE. Suffrages of saints are often included in BOOKS OF HOURS, where they are presented according to a hierarchy, beginning with the Trinity and often followed by the Virgin, Saint Michael, Saint John the Baptist, the apostles, martyrs, confessors, and female saints. The particular saints appearing in a group of suffrages vary according to region or personal devotions. Suffrages are known to have existed from at least the eleventh century (although the earliest extant manuscripts date from the thirteenth century).

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