A Month Already?

Wow. A month has passed since I last posted. Ah, the good old days. Don’t expect anything new for a while. I’m at that point with the thesis where every waking thought I have that is non-Mario related* is interrupted by “Your thesis ought to be done by now.”

But so that my readers don’t think I’ve become an ex-blogger again, I’ll share a short anecdote. Last week I took my class (English 129a: The European Literary Tradition) to the Beinecke manuscript and rare books library and gave them a lecture on the history of the book.

Once again, I overprepared for the lecture. I had lots of notes that I didn’t look at once, and I ran out of time and didn’t get to show off several of the items that I had paged, including the indulgence scroll that promises to shave 28,000 or so years off of the bearer’s Purgatory sentence.** I always forget how much time it takes to handle the basic questions, like:

–If vellum was so valuable, why did they leave such big margins in their books?
–How did the scribes write so straight and neat?
–You mean bookworms are real and not just cartoons?
–Why do they let someone with your qualifications handle that thousand-year-old priceless artifact?

And last, but not least,

–What is that monkey doing with that trumpet?


Bring your class whatever you want. I brought mine (among other things) a 12th-century boy’s Latin school book, an Inquisition manual, the only extant copy of a the Abraham and Isaac non-cycle mystery play, a folding calendar, and a copy of the First Folio–but I’m pretty sure that for most of them, the visit is filed away in their heads under Monkey Butt-Trumpet.***

I don’t relate this to shame my students. Gothic marginalia is powerful stuff, and I have to remember that when I plan my lectures.

*For the record, Super Mario Galaxy is the Hamlet of video games.
**Sorry, class. If you find yourselves in Purgatory for an extra 28,000 years, know that you have me and your own non-deadly sins to blame.
**Or possibly: Butt-Trumpet, Monkey. I suppose it depends on how organized their mental filing cabinets are.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jennifer Lynn Jordan

    I’ll have to put in my vote for Monkey Butt-Trumpet. It just trips off the tongue.

    I’m getting Mario Galaxy for Christmas from my boyfriend. I’m psyched. Because I don’t have enough distracting me right now.

  • Logan

    –If vellum was so valuable, why did they leave such big margins in their books?

    So, why is that?

  • LLCoolCarlIII

    Depends on the book. Lots of them don’t, but here’s some reasons they might:

    1) So that the edges, which bear the brunt of the damage from repeated reading, could be trimmed away gradually, when the book was rebound, lengthening the lifespan of the book.
    2) For notes, commentary, glosses, etc.
    3) More room for funny pictures.
    4) To show how much money you had to waste on big clean margins.

  • Karen

    My fave for margin funny pictures is MS. Bodl. 264. But — actual point of this posting — saw this and thought you’d find it interesting.

  • Pingback: The Eleventy-Seven Most Mind-Blowingly Inaccurate Facts in Cracked.com’s “8 Filthy Jokes Hidden in Ancient Works of Art” — Got Medieval

  • Kate Gladstone

    I recommend filing it military-style: “Butt-Trumpet, Monkeys, for the use of.”

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