Tag Archives: manuscripts; medieval; lending books

Book History Colloquium: Old Books as Digital Objects

13 February 2019 | 6pm | Room 522 Butler Library

early english manuscript

Photo courtesy sarahwerner.net

We are used to reading texts with our eyes—reading the words and images for their content (in fact, this is so obvious it’s odd to describe it). But we also read texts with our fingers—the feel of the materials, the act of navigating through a codex or scroll, and the feel of the weight shifting or paper folding as we move through the content all contribute to our understanding of the work we’re reading.

The guest speaker for this event is Dr. Sarah Werner, independent scholar, editor of the blog Wynken de Worde books, early modern culture, post-modern readers and the author of the forthcoming Studying Early Printed Books 1450-1800: A Practical Guide.

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A book lost and found; a friend retained; a sonnet to say it all

The past days witnessed a tussle with a friend who had borrowed a book of mine, and was quite convinced that she had given it back to me; I surely did not think so, was getting a bit irritated with her: “she does this sort of thing all the time”—accusatory thoughts running through my mind. And then I remembered a sonnet by the Florentine barber and poet, Burchiello (ca. 1404-1449) scribbled in a fifteenth-century hand on a flyleaf of one of our manuscripts; this is the situation, all right!

Sempre se dice ch’un fa danno a cento;
Ben ch’el mi para fuor del dovuto,
Per un inghanno ch’io ho ricevuto,
Seguire intendo tal ordinamento.
Prestai un simil libro ond’io mi pento
Che quando l’ebbi ben asai tenuto
El me provo che me l’avea renduto
E a mi convene rimaner contempto.
E questo nesun m’el chieza in prestanza
Ch’el non m’intravenga como far sole
Ch’io perda el libro e anche l’amistanza.
Ma pur s’alchun sforzar in cio mi vole
Presto m’arechi una tal recordanza
A mantener fazza in pie le su parole.

Plimpton MS 195, f. i verso; another poem in the manuscript is signed and dated by the owner/copyist, Giovanni Battista di S. Eufemia of Faenza on 7 July 1478. Same sonnet in an incunable held by this library, Goff B-1289, printed in Venice in 1483/84.

But unlike the sonnet, in the end, I did not loose both the book and the friend; she found my book, she gave it back, we’re cheerful again (and I’ll continue to lend out my books; I never learn).