Annibal Barlet - Table showing the various Hermetic Symbols used in Alchemy, “Le Vray et Methodique Cours de la Physique Resolutive Vulgairement dite Chymie” (”The True and Methodical Course in Resolutive Physick, Commonly called Chemistry”), 1657.

A medieval manuscript that was peed on by a cat 

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.]

Cologne, Historisches Archiv, G.B. quarto, 249, fol. 68r

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Books as hardware

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).