Sunday, November 29, 2020

A failure to follow directions

Missal leaf, with mistakes.
In a post from last year, I wrote about some guide letters, where a scribe (or, in that case, a typesetter) indicates to a rubricator what letter should be inserted in a space. Perhaps it should go without saying, but even when the directions are clear, mistakes sometimes are made.

In the case of the small missal or breviary leaf to the left (the whole leaf measures only about 5 3/4" by 3 1/4"), at least two errors can easily be seen. 

The more obvious one involves the red (i.e., rubricated) text written into the lower margin. It is, as one might be able to see, preceded by a little red caret; the matching sign can be found in line 18 of the first column, just to the left of the two-line red "n" in the right hand column. As I hope is obvious, the position of the matching sign indicates where the added passage belongs.

Very possibly, this was a mistake by the primary scribe; at the least it seems to have been corrected by a second scribe, who uses a single-compartment a, rather than the main scribe's regular, two-compartment a. It is notable that this correction has been written on a couple of added ruling lines, provided just for this passage.

The second error, however, is clearly made by the rubricator. 

Although they may be difficult to see on the full-page image of this page, guide letters survive in the right-hand margin of this page: q, n, and n. The first two were no trouble for the rubricator, but something went wrong with the third:

Closer view of rubrication error and correction.

For whatever reason, the left-hand side of this letter was extended across three lines, not two: it looks like the rubricator intended to make a p, but certainly what was originally there could not have been easily read as an n. Not only was the letter painted in with blue, but the decorative red-pen lines were added before the mistake was corrected: someone else, presumably, came upon this and scraped away the lower part of the letter and added black ink serifs at the feet of the n, to make the letter clear. 

I find it strangely comforting to know that my own failures, at times, to follow directions are nothing new in the world, and even medieval scribes and rubricators had their off days.

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