|Printed vellum leaf: creases and slots on the|
right hand side show that this was later
used as part of a binding.
The leaf in question is a bit unusual, though, because it has been printed on vellum. Last week, I confessed to the soft place I have in my heart for medieval manuscripts written on paper, but only books that were intended to be deluxe copies, as a rule, were printed on vellum, because it was significantly more expensive than paper.
This leaf, from a missal, may be from an incunable, but it's certainly from the early part of the sixteenth century at the latest. The date 1557 on one side may indicate the date of its recycling as the wrapper of another book.
Most of the capital letters on this page were printed in red, along with the heading at the top of the page and subheadings of various sorts in the columns. But at the bottom of the right-hand column, a manuscript rubricator has added a large three-line initial in blue paint (which is now faded) with contrasting red-ink pen decoration.
The "guide letter" that the post is about is the letter (printed in black) that the printer placed in the space for the larger initial, so that the rubricator would know what letter to paint in. In many of the manuscript (and printed) examples I've seen, the large hand-painted letter often enough was designed to cover over the tiny guide letter, so it wouldn't be seen.
|Manuscript "O" surrounding the printed "o"|
On this example, as the close-up above shows, the printed guide letter has intentionally been left visible, and the decorative red pen-scrolls even seem to swirl around it and call attention to it. The printed letter ends up being part of the design.
Perhaps it's just me, but I can't help but note that the visible page thus has two examples of the letter "o" here, only one of which can be used to read the text.
And apparently, this is no mistake from this rubricator, either. The three-line initial "d" on the opposite side of the leaf has the same effect, though damage from the leaf's later use as a book-wrapper makes it a bit trickier to see.
Nevertheless, it seems to be a wonderfully odd feature of this page to me, especially as it leaves two letters visible where readers use only one. But that's part of what I find fascinating about old books and leaves: the places where they do something unexpected, or at least something I do not expect.
It's always interesting to see the moments when manuscript and print work together on the same page, and I usually think that the manual labor involved in adding decorated letters must have meant they had a higher value than the printed guide letters they were meant to replace.
But here, the guide letters were not only not replaced, but they were allowed to keep their position of visual prominence at the center of the larger, manuscript letters' decorative adornments. Fascinating!