SCA Persona Development Gleaned Through Paleography

While writing my recent post “How to Find the Script Your Persona Might Have Used” I came across an article relevant to Jehanne Bening, my SCA persona. The article described a manuscript production method used in Bruges and Delf. Would this have affected Jehanne’s illumination or life style?

Jehanne is from the town of Bruges in the Duchy of Burgundy and works in the Sanders Bening workshop. Sanders, who died in 1519, was the father of the well-known illuminator Simon Bening. And his workshop produced many fine things for the Dukes of Burgundy.

Around the 14th-century literacy increased and the new urban classes wanted affordable books. Manuscript production methods changed to accommodate this.

The personal Book of Hours developed during that time. It contained fewer standard texts than the formal Psalter with some sections chosen by the buyer.

The Book of Hours also differed in use from the Psalter. It was not always read from beginning to end. A section might be selected by the reader as needed or inspired. More whimsically.

The Hague, KB, 71 H 56 fol. 1r

In some areas, manuscripts became created by modular construction that divided labor efficiently. This benefited book owners, who could pick desired texts for their manuscript and expand or change their book after they bought it if they chose. They could also be made “generically” for an undetermined future buyer. More books could be sold and more money made for the manuscript producer.

The modular production worked well when making a Book of Hours because their sections were individually chosen and their order varied between manuscripts. And all were influenced by the location where the book would be used. 

The impulsive reading style and urban economy combined causing manuscripts in Jehanne’s area and time to be written and created differently from psalters. They were made in smaller units combined during binding, just as they were read by choosing an inspiring section.

Paleographers can determine the book’s original material and that added after the manuscript was finished. This reveals workshop practices in Bruges where Jehanne worked used this modular construction, though other areas did not.

This information is also interesting to me as a scribe today. Knowing the style may vary within a 14th- or 15th-century manuscript, it is easier for me to see when I look at online manuscripts with many pages. It also explains blank pages and textless illuminated borders. Before the Internet, this could only be done through viewing original manuscripts or perhaps looking at certain facsimiles.

This modular creation system allowed Jehanne to work with other scribes on one manuscript. Each scribe could still work within their skill and expertise areas. 
The modular construction lead to personalized standard books, helped control costs and boosted manuscript sales. It was also job security for Jehanne.


Related Prior Post:

Wow! Scribal Research Has Changed

Categories: Persona

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