Print to MS Transition

Entering the realm of manuscript texts on parchment takes us back about 1000 years beyond the most common paper manuscripts, which were produced in the C14-15 (though some as early as the 1200s may exist).  As in the case of the "Paper Museum" class, in which I was trying to sensitize your eyes and fingers and nose etc. to the varieties of paper weights, textures, and materials, the Parchment Museum class is a bodily experience designed to help you learn to operate parchment as a material on which texts were preserved. In both cases, this knowledge will make you a scholar in whom rare book librarians and collectors will be willing to put their trust when you handle their prized treasures.  You have to know what to expect old paper and parchment to be, in all stages and varieties of their preservation.  Clarkson's "The Nature of the Beast" essay will begin educating you about the peculiar consequences we face when using texts conserved on parchment, and the museum will help you learn to see and feel a parchment document's origins and past in its current state of preservation.  We have some exceptionally fine, aesthetically beautiful pieces of parchment in the museum, some good, work-aday documents, and some pretty gnarly animals.  The nature of the text preserved is not necessarily congruent with the quality of parchment upon which it was written.  For instance, the unique collected works of the "Pearl"-Poet, arguably Chaucer's equal, are preserved on the singularly dark and crusty leaves of exactly one manuscript, known as Cotton Nero A.x after Sir Robert Bruce Cotton's library's classification system.  Each stack of shelves was topped by the bust of a different famous person from the Roman era [Nero, Caligula, Cleopatra, etc.] and each stack's shelves were assigned letters of the alphabet from "A" at the top on down.  Books on the shelf, stacked vertically, were assigned Roman numerals, so this manuscript was ten from the left on the top shelf of the shelves with Nero's bust at the top.  As uniquely valuable as this manuscript is, the substrate parchment and its current state of preservation are not terribly impressive.  In fact, its shabby exterior tends to blind scholars to the possibility that it preserves precious evidence of the "Pearl"-Poet's art.  Remember, when dealing with artifacts, that current state of preservation, or even the value of the materials used at the time of creation, are no sure measure of the value of the artifact or its meaning.  An emperor's bowel movements might be recorded in golden ink on parchment dyed imperial purple with colors made from the most previous sea creatures, whereas divine wisdom might be scratched on the poorest scraps of paper or parchment or stone or baked earth.  For now, let's open our minds to the range of what parchment can be and let "value" take care of itself.  That will prepare us to learn all that we can as a class from Manuscript Lab 1a.