Thursday, 15 March 2012

Boar motives on Ambrym island

See my Art-blog on the Ambrym Island Slit-drum

Communicating by Tam Tam [=Atingting Kon] At 3:46
Old man with boar-tusks at 3:59

Boar-shields on Etruscan vase

Shields with boar-motives on Etruscan Tragliatella vase


Thursday, 1 March 2012

It came at last, this codex of codices
word-wondrous and winding, hiding
still self-contained secrets pointing at
enigmatic mores, murder, past
from the distant dark dream-time ...

Today I got my Electronic Beowulf, which really made time stand still. It was the same kind of feeling as when I found that second-hand Klaeber, way back in the eighties.
Nobody had heard of Kiernan in those days, which is really astonishing. What puzzled me though, while still believing in an early date, was the fact that somebody around the year 1000 AD deliberately spent a substantial amount of vellum on this text.

I vaguely remember seeing the MS in the British museum and me reading it aloud.

I remember my teacher of Old-English having a facsimile - a Zupitza reprint I believe - which seemed totally out of reach for me.
That was nearly thirty years ago.
Today I found this e-version.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Two autographs

If scribe B uses older lettering [Kiernan, Revisions],
if Part II is an older codex or autograph,
then that might explain the absence of the word Scylding and its likes in part two.
It might account for its less intricate, almost self-contained character.
So I started re-reading from l.2200 ff...

Saturday, 16 April 2011

The cost of the manuscript

Having just finished Kiernan, I am currently re-reading Whitelock - the Audience of Beowulf [AoB]. It is wonderful. Dated in some respects, but so inspiring. And how I have changed myself since I was a student, nearly thirty years ago, and rather resented the book. I had just lost my faith. I wanted Beowulf to be pagan, at least essentially pagan. And there it read: all Christian, Christian, Christian.

I was already interested in codicology at the time, due to the late Professor Jos M.M. Hermans immensely inspiring lectures. I had started on bookbinding, which gave me hands-on experience with books and the making of books.

There was just one thing that was puzzling me already at that time, and it still does. Somebody spent a considerable sum of money on a manuscript which dealt with Danish deeds of valour, and that around AD 1000. By the way, we still believed that the manuscript was the umpteenth copy, for no one seemed to have read Kiernan, at university. To me, the AD 1000 MS was enough to dismiss AoB.

Yet Whitelock only rules out a dating during Cnut's reign, on the sole ground that the ms must be dated earlier:
It could hardly be located in English England until the reign of Cnut, and that is later than our surviving manuscript. [AoB p.25]

Calculating the cost
AoB p92. "six sheep or one ox could be bought for a mancus of gold, forty-eight sheep or eight oxen for a pound of silver."

A mancus - as weight equalled 4.25g - of gold.

So if one sheepskin would provide enough parchment to make one quire(gathering),
Kiernan collating the Beowulf MS (should I say Codex or rather: autograph?) into 9 quires,
thus requiring (roughly guessing) 9 sheepskins = 1.5 mancuses of gold.
1.5 mancuses of gold = 6.375g = 6.375*$47.79=$304.66 at today's value.

How much is that? Three hundred dollars is a small price in the Western world.
But what about nine sheep in, say, Africa?

By comparison
Parchment from a modern supplyer:

Full-Size Sheepskin - 8-9 sq ft
$151.20 [times 9!]

"Our full sheepskins are available in size categories ranging from 6–8 square feet to 12–13 square feet."

9 Sq ft = 9*0,093 m2 = 0.837 m2

The manuscript measures 195 x 130 mm [Theoretically, a 9 sq ft skin might be good for 0.837/0.025 = 33 leaves
The Beowulf codex then, would require just two sheep or 1/3 mancus of gold.

Using a different calculation, and bifolia of 260*200 mm [width*height], one skin might make 13-14 bifolia.

We will need [non-destructive] DNA-research to establish the sheep that were used for the manuscript. I am not sure if this is a possibility.
In the meantime I must find out from Kiernan the exact collation and see if I can get more certainty.