Mad about manuscript

Alice Redshaw discusses the beauty of a manuscript, and how there historical works are the epitome of artistry, hidden within our very own Robinson library.

19th October 2015

Dating back to the 15th Century, this manuscript from the Newcastle University archives is striking in its authenticity and sophistication. Used by monks for the purpose of chanting, The Breviary is written in Flemish, points to the origins of this religious group.

With finger marks on the page and the pages being worn with age, there is a real feel of a living history when looking at this piece. Focusing on the pages themselves, there is an impression of intricacy of the way that this was written, with an interesting side note being that the capital letters being how readers differentiated between a break in the verse.

A manuscript as historical as this requires delicate handling, which make me really appreciate how important relics like this are. The metal clasp on the side is golden and initially seems it might be difficult to open, but slips open quite easily, even though it can leave the reader understanding the fragility of this piece. It is clear that much thought and precision has been put into the front cover of The Breviary, with a pattern focused in the centre of it. When looking at the pages from the exterior, many have become crinkled with age, but it is still obvious how well it has been preserved throughout the years.

The process for looking at relics such as these is one that must be done in a specific way to as to ensure that these books are preserved in the best way possible. These artefacts are a brilliant resource for anyone studying history so that they can get a really good feel for the history that they are studying, or even just for someone that has an interest in the authenticity of manuscripts.

Although the text has become worn with age, and many of the words are missing, the reader is given the opportunity to understand how much it has been used since its publication, and see how the monks professed an important part of their faith.

"With finger marks on the page and the pages being worn with age, there is a real feel of a living history when looking at this piece"

Many manuscripts have been hand-written in black ink, usually with a large, curling red letter to begin the start of a sentence, chapter or prayer. What I find most beautiful about the inside of  a manuscript, except for the beautiful Latin language of the older manuscripts, is the intricate designs bordering the writing. Leaves and geometrically perfect swirls have been hand-drawn with gold swirls encircling each other, and bright green leaves and ruby like reds, giving the whole manuscript a celestial feel to it. The large clasps on mant of these manuscripts along with the leather bound style of the book also gives these manuscripts a biblical feel to them, as many manuscripts were owned by priests, who used these to hand write their own sermons. even the distinct smell of old leather and rustic paper is empowering. Once you have touched a manuscript, you will never be the same again.

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