Purim is coming - and it’s International (Working) Women’s Day too! 🎉 💪🏽 👸🏾 ✊🏾 So I thought I would share some images of Esther as a working woman - a scribe! - in tribute to the many women who continue to mentor and inspire me. These images are from illustrated megillot from Italy, Germany, and Holland, ca. 1650-1750: the earliest images, to my knowledge, of female scribes in Hebrew manuscripts (although I’d be happy to be corrected!).
A real #TBT today — I made this piece in February but forgot to track it when I sent it out and worried that it had been lost… But I was thrilled to hear yesterday that it finally arrived. Arabic is from the Qur'an (49:13): “We created you from one pair, and placed you in different nations so that you may know one another,” and Hebrew from the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 4:5): “Therefore humanity was created from a single person, so that no-one could say ‘My ancestor is greater than yours.’"
Well, it appears Easter Sunday came and went without any schisms or epic arguments between branches of the church. However, in c. 1150 northern England, when this manuscript was written, Easter without a great deal of disagreement would’ve been a relatively new concept!
You may recognize the bearded fellow above from my previous post on book holes. He is, in fact, the Venerable Bede, ‘the father of English history’ and all-around Renaissance man before there was even a Renaissance. It is he that we have to thank for not only the BC/AD dating system and the first scholarly books in English, but for the recording of the standardization of the methods used to calculate the yearly date of Easter. Before standardization, people were excomunicated or worse for celebrating Easter on an “incorrect” day. The Synod of Whitby in 664 set the Easter rules in stone, and Bede’s record of the event is the most detailed that remains in existence.
These charts come from a manuscript volume of works that include Bede’s Treatise on the Reckoning of Time, as well as writing by Dionysius Exiguus, whose research and figures laid the groundwork for Bede’s own calculations. I don’t pretend to know what exactly the figures mean, but I marvel at the amount of mathematical work that went into them. The 5th graph looks positively modern!
(bunny from Edinburgh MS 2, other images from Glasgow MS Hunter 85)
So glad to have my real camera back! I was missing a charging cable… Now I can post much nicer pictures, like these close-ups of a commissioned piece I sent out last weekend. The verse is from Micah 6:8:
Illuminated Manuscript, Koran, Frontispiece, Walters Art Museum, Ms W.563, fol. 5b by Walters Art Museum Via Flickr: This large-format, illuminated Timurid copy of the Qur’an is believed to have been produced in Northern India in the ninth century AH / fifteenth CE. The manuscript opens with a series of illuminated frontispieces. The main text is written in a large vocalized polychrome muḥaqqaq script. Marginal explanations of the readings of particular words and phrases are in thuluth and naskh scripts, and there is interlinear Persian translation in red naskh script. The fore-edge flap of the gold-tooled, brown leather binding is inscribed with verses 77 through 80 from Chapter 56 (Sūrat al-wāqiʿah). The seal of Sultan Bayezid II (1481-1512 CE) appears on fol. 8a. There is an erased bequest (waqf) statement and stamp of Sultan ʿUthmān Khān (1027-31 CE) on fol. 3a.
Today I FINALLY got stuck into looking at manuscripts in the University of Glasgow’s library! I picked a couple of real lookers to examine✨
This fine initial D comes from a 12th century copy of Raban Maurus’ “Treatise on the Universe,” most likely executed in the north of England. Other collections I’ve delved into are quite heavy on 14th-16th century French manuscripts, so it was a real pleasure to examine a manuscript of this age and origin! This work is full of two-color decorated initials, executed very carefully and exactly. If you look close enough at the outer walls of this D, you can see the decorator’s quill strokes!
(MS Hunter 366 at the University of Glasgow library special collections )