A Medieval Popup (Mmm… Marginalia #59)

Sometimes scribes accidentally leave out some of the text they meant to copy. Catching the error on review, they usually just put the text out beside the original with a mark indicating that the reader’s eyes should skip over to the side.*

The scribes behind a particular edition of the Revelations of St. Brigit, now held at the British Library, were particularly sloppy, necessitating this move be made again and again. But rather than just leave it at a little mark, the revising scribes decided to add little marginal figures to the added text. This one’s my favorite:

I like it because of the 3D effect of the guy popping up out of the page, something pretty rare in medieval manuscripts. I don’t know who this dead man is, but he’s an appropriate bearer of such morbid omitted text.

*You’re all familiar with such marks, yes? The ones that tell you to stop reading one section of text and move to another?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • jedesto

    Translation, if you please, for us ignoranti.

  • stu

    I'm quite fond of those rare occasions when you get little arguments over a couple of centuries, all happening in the margin. More forum posting than popups, but still vaguely relevant.

  • Ceirseach

    I can't see it very well on this screen, but to me it looks like:

    sicut eni[m] illi morte corp[or]ali morieba[n]t[ur]


    for as they died a mortal death

    Disagreement from anyone with a better screen?

  • Got Medieval

    That's my transcription as well. Thanks, Ceir, as any day on which I don't have to translate Latin for myself is a good day.

  • tenthmedieval

    Let me display my ignorance here: why is he wearing a tied-up sack? Is that a winding-sheet, and therefore how you know he's dead? Or is that coming from somewhere else? Were burial cloths usually tied up like that? Do we know?

  • Cartesian

    Hello, in order to help some bad things to be part of history and not present (it could have been better with a 3D medieval effect but it is not available 🙂 ), you can find something about a petition which could interest you in the top right-hand corner at the following address: http://eternal-cartesian.blogspot.com/ . Sincerely for a better world

  • K

    Hadn't thought about this in years, and maybe all of you can help me out. There's a WONDERFUL example of this in a manuscript with a figure climbing a kind of vine ladder w/the ommitted text below him, almost like a modern builder riding an i-beam up a skyscraper. I want to say it was a 13th century text, but can't remember. Wonderful reds and blues in the colouring though. Anyone? Sound familiar at all?

  • Got Medieval

    tenthmedieval — I don't think he's 'wearing' the sack exactly, I think it's your standard burial sack that's come open near the face allowing his dead visage to leer out.

    K — I've not seen said picture, though it sounds right up my alley.

  • marshalslion

    i can't see the popup it's just a blank space i get.

Next post:

Previous post:

Bad Behavior has blocked 1079 access attempts in the last 7 days.