Manuscript title: 12th Century Breviary from the monastery of Disentis
Manuscript summary: This is a collection of liturgical works from the monastery of Disentis, written in the second half of the 12th century, most likely around 1200. In sequence, the volume contains a calendar (pp. 2-13), a psalter (pp. 15-90) and a hymnary (pp. 91-110), a (mixed) capitulary and collectarium (pp. 116-186), as well as an antiphonary, a lectionary, and a homiliary (pp. 203-638). Highlights from the point of view of manuscript decoration include the initial “B” at the beginning of the psalter (p. 15) and a picture of the crucifixion (p. 89). This breviary is one of the very few surviving medieval manuscripts from the monastery of Disentis. The manuscript came to Kempten around 1300; as early as the 15th century, the Disentis Breviary was held in the Abbey Library of St. Gall.
Scribe was forced to leave the rest of the page empty, drew a picture of a cat and cursed the creature with the following words:
“Hic non defectus est, sed cattus minxit desuper nocte quadam. Confundatur pessimus cattus qui minxit super librum istum in nocte Daventrie, et consimiliter omnes alii propter illum. Et cavendum valde ne permittantur libri aperti per noctem ubi cattie venire possunt.”
[Here is nothing missing, but a cat urinated on this during a certain night. Cursed be the pesty cat that urinated over this book during the night in Deventer and because of it many others [other cats] too. And beware well not to leave open books at night where cats can come.]
B. W. Betts - Antique Diagrams showing the Stages of Human Consciousness, “Geometrical psychology”, 1887.
In his metaphysical explorations, Betts attempted to represent the successive stages of the evolution of human consciousness with symbolic mathematical forms; he was quite pleased to find that his mathematical representations frequently resulted in plant-like forms, taking this to mean that he was on the track to some universal representation of consciousness. Incidentally, he also believed that human consciousness was the only thing that we as humans could study directly since everything else must necessarily be perceived through human consciousness.
These odd-looking medieval books share one peculiarity: they were all made into interactive objects because actual turning discs were attached to the page, usually more than one. The makers of these manuscripts added them to calculate the position of sun and moon (Pic 1), the date of Easter (not shown), or make other calculations (Pic 3). Particularly intriguing is the set of cogwheels embedded in the bookbinding (Pic 2), which picked a random number used for a method of divination. More about these unusual books and their function in this post on my other blog, medievalbooks.nl.
Pics: British Library, Egerton 848 (top); Oxford, Bodleian Library, Digby 46 (middle); Maastricht, Regionaal Historisch Centrum (bottom, pic my own).