Glossary

Annals: historical sources in which facts and events are arranged in chronological order, year by year, without any other real context or interconnection.

Apocryphal scriptures: (from the Greek apokryp`tein, hide, conceal) works not included in the biblical canon.

Ara pacis: (Lat. Altar of the Augustun peace) was consecrated by the Emperor Augustus in Rome in 9 AD; also known as Ara pacis Augustae, it was a marble altar surrounded by a wall. Reliefs on the outside of the wall showed events in the mythical history of Rome and a procession consisting of members of the Imperial family and the old Roman priesthood, headed by the Emperor sacrificing to peace; regarded as the supreme manifestation of Roman art.

Aramaic: Semitic language, the official language of Asia Minor from c. 700 BC until c. 600 BC. The Jewish lingua franca in the lifetime of Christ, who probably spoke (Palestinian) Aramaic.

Arabesque initial: a decorated letter, usually in more than one colour, with flat, entwined foliate-like forms usually arranged in circular or near-circular patterns and often entwined.

Arbor consanguinitatis (Lat. Tree of consanguinity): a diagram, frequently occupying a full page and illustrating kinship relations with a bearing in canon law on matters of conjugal and hereditary title; most often found in legal manuscripts, but also occurring in texts of other kinds, e.g. the Ninth Book of Isidore’s Etymologies. 

Arena Chapel (the Scrovegni Chapel): a small chapel in Padua (Italy) built at the beginning of the 14th century and known for its Giotto frescoes of the Last Judgement and of scenes from the lives of the Virgin and Christ.

Arianism: doctrine preached by the 4th century priest Arius, who regarded Christ as a human being endowed by God with divine powers. Arius’s doctrine was condemned in 325 but persisted among the Germans until the beginning of the 6th century. 

Ascender: the part of a letter that is above the minim (q.v.) height, as in b, d, and l.

Autun, cathedral: the church of St. Lazare (1130) in Burgundy (France), known for its Romanesque sculptures, especially those by Gisleberte.

Azoth: vaporisation, one of the four basic natural processes according to alchemy. The name comes from the first and last letters of the Latin alphabet, AZ, followed by the last letters of the Greek and Hebrew alphabets, Omega and Tau.

Benedictine Rule: the monastic rule which Benedict of Nursia (673-735) drew up for the monastery which he founded at Monte Cassino. The provisions of the Rule concerning daily study and labour (including the copying of manuscripts) were vitally important in the development of western civilisation.

Benediction: a liturgical blessing.

Bible prologue: in the medieval Bible, an introduction intended to present and explain a book or group of books in the Bible and consisting mainly of excerpts from the writings of the Latin Church Father Jerome.

Bifolium: one piece of parchment folded down the centre to form two leaves.

Calends: name of the first day of the month in the Roman calendar; also used in the medieval calendar.

Canon: (Lat. canon, from the Greek kanan, rule, yardstick etc.), rule (collection), text(s) or document(s) considered normative, acknowledged and legitimate.

Canonisation: placement in the canon or calendar of saints.

Carolingian minuscle: a medieval script (very like the letters commonly used today) developed in the ninth century and extensively used from then until the end of the twelfth century, to be revived in the fifteenth.

Carolingian period: a period associated with a dynasty of Frankish kings (751-962), the most important of them being Charlemagne (747-814), who became Holy Roman Emperor in 800.

Channel style: a style of decoration associated with England and northern France in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century.

Chronicle: historical account, primarily from medieval times, in which the chronological sequence of the events described is the unifying factor. The borderline between chronicles and annals is fluid, but the chronicle is distinguished by being more detailed.

Cistercian Order: named after its parent monastery of Cîteaux, Lat. Cistercium, in France, founded in 1098; a reformed branch of the Benedictine Order, practising a strict and ascetic interpretation of the monastic rule of St Benedict.

Codex Argenteus (the Silver Book, known in Sweden as Silverbibeln – the Silver Bible): contains the four Gospels in Gothic, translated from Greek in the 4th century by the Gothic Bishop Wulfila; written, presumably at the beginning of the 6th century, in gold and silver ink (hence the name) on purple-stained parchment; now in Uppsala University Library.

Codex Aureus (the Golden Book): contains the four Gospels in Latin, written partly in gold ink (hence the name) on alternately plain and purple-stained parchment; executed c. 750 in the south of England, probably Canterbury. It was acquired for Sweden by Johan Gabriel Sparwenfeld in Spain in 1690; now in the Swedish National Library (shelf mark A 135).

Collation: the order and organisation of the bifolia (q.v.) in a manuscript.

Collectarium: (Lat. collecta, prayer) a liturgical book used in the canonical hours; in addition to prayers its contents could also include certain other parts of the office.

Collegiate church: a church having, like a cathedral, a chapter of regular clergy (priests living by a monastic rule), who together perform the offices (canonical hours).

Corvey: Benedictine monastery in Westphalia, founded in 822, from which missionaries set out for northern Europe, including Ansgar, “the Apostle of the North”. Corvey had a famous school and an important library. It was looted by the Swedes in 1632. 

Descender: the part of a letter that is below the minim (q.v.) height, as in p, q and y.

Deuterocanonical books: (Gr. deuteros, second and kanan, rule, yardstick) in the Catholic tradition, the books not in the canon of the Old Testament, namely First and Second Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, and certain additions to Jewish books of the Bible. 

Didactic writings: instructional and educational writings.

Dorpat University: founded in 1632 by Gustavus Adolphus in Dorpat (Tartu), Estonia, as part of the “Swedification” of new territories. It was the second-oldest university in the then Swedish empire.

Eschatology: the doctrine of the last things.

Explicit: (probably an abbreviation of the Latin explicitus est liber, i.e. “the book has been completely unrolled” ), used by authors to indicate the end of the text, often together with particulars of its title and sometimes of its authorship; the word is in the third person singular and means “here endeth” (the book, text etc.), but the plural form expliciunt also occurs. It can also denote the final word of the text.

Fathers of the Church: the earliest Christian authors considered of special importance in the ecclesiastical tradition. In the Western Church, Isidore of Seville (d. 636) usually ranks as the last of the Church Fathers.

Foliation: the numbering of the leaves in a manuscript.

Franks: a collective term for German tribes which attacked the Roman Empire along the Rhine. During the 5th century the Franks expanded southwards and westwards, forming a Frankish kingdom at the close of the century. During the 6th century they converted from their ancient Germanic religion to Christianity.

Genesis: the first book of the Pentateuch, containing the story of the Creation.

Goths: a Germanic tribe in ancient and early medieval times.

Great Moravian Empire: early medieval West Slavic state corresponding geographically to present-day Moravia, Slovakia, Bohemia and parts of Hungary and Poland; collapsed in 906.

Greek majuscule script: an early type of Greek script, consisting of majuscules, i.e. capital letters, and written between two lines (real or theoretical); originated with stone inscriptions.

Greek minuscule script: a later type of Greek script, using “small” characters, minuscules. These varied in length (ascenders and descenders), and so in principle a minuscule script was contained between four lines. Greek minuscule evolved gradually and from the 8th century onwards to become the established book-hand.

Gregory’s rule: a common arrangement of the bifolia in medieval manuscripts in which the flesh side of the parchment was always put opposite another flesh side, and the hair side opposite another hair side.

Peace conferences in The Hague: meetings of several states for the promotion of international coexistence and co-operation. The first peace conference, following a Russian initiative, took place in The Hague in 1899 and adopted a number of texts on humanity in war. The second, in 1907, resulted in 13 conventions, 12 of which have entered into force, concerning the rules of war.

Hagiographic: concerning the life of a saint.

Heidelberg, University Library: the oldest of the German university libraries,. founded in 1390 and in 1553 amalgamated with the library of the Elector Otto Heinrich; at the beginning of the 17th century one of the richest libraries in Europe and known as Bibliotheca Palatina. In 1622 it was seized by Maximilian of Bavaria following his capture of Heidelberg in the Thirty Years War (q.v.) and presented to Pope Gregory XV, by whom it was incorporated with the Vatican Library.

Heavenly City (Heavenly Jerusalem): described in the Revelation of St John the Divine, derives from the notion of a species of correspondence between earthly and heavenly phenomena and objects; in later Christian tradition, an image of Heaven as the abode of the blessed.

Homiletic: to do with preaching (from the Greek homili´a, sermon/homily), its content and structure, or with the study of preaching in a wider sense. 

Incipit: (Lat. incipere, to begin) used by medieval authors to indicate the beginning of a new text or of a new part of the same text, giving its title and sometimes its authorship; the word is in the third person singular and means “[here] beginneth” (the book, text, etc.); the plural form incipient is also used. Can also denote the opening words of the text.

Initial: a large, often decorated letter at the beginning of an important passage of text.

Introit: antiphonal song at the commencement of the mass, usually from the book of Psalms.

Jewish Revolt: broke out in Judea in 66 AD as a result of growing religious unrest and brutally repressive Roman rule. It ended in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem.

Kalendae: the first day of the month in the Roman Calendar; the designation was used in the medieval calendar as well.

Kievrus: the Kiev Empire, name of a medieval principality, extensive but loose-knit, created in the 9th century and centring on the Dnepr Valley in what is now Ukraine; acquired a firmer social structure in the 10th and 11th centuries, partly through the introduction of Byzantine Christianity in 988, but disintegrated and collapsed in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Leaf mark: a small piece of material, including thread, attached to a leaf as a guide for a reader to find a particular leaf in a manuscript.

Liturgy: order of service, especially in Christian worship.

Liturgical books: books containing orders of service and/or readings.

Luxembourg dynasty: kings of Bohemia 1310-1378.

Minim: a vertical stroke in script such as Carolingian minuscule (q.v.), most obviously in the letter i, that does not go above or below the upper or lower part of the letter o.

Minnesang (Ger): Middle High German love lyric, influenced by the art of the French troubadours and flourishing in the 12th and 13th centuries. These songs were accompanied on stringed instruments. Walther von der Vogelweide, Reinmar der Alte, Heinrich von Morungen and Wolfram von Eschenbach were the foremost exponents of the genre.

Monte Cassino: monastery between Rome and Napes, founded in 529 by Benedict of Nursia. After being several times destroyed and re-established, it attained the peak of its achievement in the 11th century, becoming the cultural and political centre of Italy.

Neumes: an early form of musical notation.

Necrology: name of a book showing the obits of members of medieval monasteries and churches, and benefactors etc. of these institutions, all of whom were to be remembered on their death days in the course of divine worship. Most often a necrology was in calendar form, but entries could also be written in martyrologies and liturgical calendars.

Onomastic: the study of names and naming practices (place-name research).

Order of the Knights of the Cross with a Red Star: order founded by St Agnes of Bohemia as a lay fraternity dedicated to nursing and the cure of souls; recognised as an order in 1237, it occupied a very strong position in Bohemia and Silesia. The name alludes to a cross and a red star in the order’s insignia.

Orsini-Rosenberg Library: founded by Prince Peter Vok Rosenberg (Cz. Rožmberk) (1539-1611). The Rosenbergs were one of the most exalted families of the Bohemian nobility. The library contained a large number of precious manuscripts, incunabulae and rare printed works, some formerly belonging to the Prince’s late brother Wilhelm. The library was transferred in 1647 to the Hradschin Castle in Prague, where in 1648 it was captured by the Swedes as war booty.

Packed sewing: a compactly arranged series of threads around the sewing supports (q.v.) that formed part of the binding structure.

Palaeographic: relating to medieval and subsequent scripts (their nature, reading and interpretation).

Palimpsest: (Gr. palin, again; psēstos, scraped) a re-used papyrus or parchment manuscript in which the original text has been washed or scraped off and a new one substituted.

Parchment: specially manufactured animal hides on which most medieval manuscripts were written. 

Passionary: (Lat. passio, suffering) medieval liturgical handbook containing lessons from the Acts of the Martyrs or legends of the saints, for reading on their feast days during the office.

Paste-down: a leaf stuck to the interior face of the board of a binding.

Pen-drawn: a manner of making an initial from multiple pen-strokes.

Pen flourished initial: an initial decorated with lines drawn with a pen.

Plummet: the medieval pencil usually made from a soft element such as lead.

Point: a tool with a fine point used to rule blind lines on parchment to guide a scribe when writing.

Praemonstratensian Order: (also known as the Norbertines) founded in 1120; named after the Order’s mother house in Prémontré near Laon in France which was founded by Norbert of Xanten; follows the rule of St Augustine; combines monastic life with the active cure of souls.

Přemyslids: Bohemian royal dynasty of Czech origin. Legend has it that they were descended from Přemysl, a peasant who married Princess Libuša; they ruled Bohemia until 1306, from 1198 onwards as kings.

Prüfening Monastery: Benedictine monastery founded in 1109 to the west of Regensburg (south Germany); a centre of manuscript production and book illumination in the 12th century; a list of books compiled in 1165 indicates a rich collection in which, apart from the liturgical books and textbooks, some 300 works by various authors are represented. 

Quire: a number of bifolia (q.v.) inserted into each other to make up the basic structural unit of a medieval manuscript, often four, making eight leaves, as in the case of Codex Gigas.

Reagent: a chemical used often in the nineteenth century to make visible writing scraped off the surface of parchment that soon after use turned dark brown.

Recto: the front side of a leaf that, if undisturbed, is always a right-hand page.

Reform Orders of the 12th century: monastic orders founded at the end of the 11th century and the beginning of the 12th (Cistercians and Praemonstratensians) which were critical of the corruption of the of the idea of the monastic life by the existing orders and argued for a stricter interpretation of the monastic rules.

Rubricator: a person responsible for supplying the rubrics within a manuscript (sometimes done by the scribe); generally followed the writing of the text.

Septuagint: (Lat. seventy), Greek translation of the Old Testament, made in Alexandria c. 200 BC by 70 or 72 Jewish scholars and often abbreviated LXX.

Scriptorium: room or facility for writing books and documents.

Singletone: a single leaf or half a bifolium.

Size: a semi-transparent fluid made from gelatine.

Slip: a singleton part-leaf.

Station: a hole or slit in the centre fold of all the bifolia in a quire through which thread passed from the interior to the exterior of a quire as part of the binding structure to attach all of the quires in a manuscript together.

Strasbourg Cathedral: in the centre of Strasbourg, one of the most famous Gothic cathedrals in Europe; built by several stages down to the mid-15th century; the oldest parts date from the 11th century; partly destroyed during the French Revolution and in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

Support: a strap of tawed skin or a piece of cord around the exterior of the spine of a manuscript to which the quires of the manuscript were sewn with thread as part of the binding structure. 

Tawed skin: specially manufactured animal hides that were white in colour commonly used as the covering of a medieval manuscript, ususually, but not always, over boards. 

Thirty Years’ War: a series of armed conflicts between 1618 and 1648 between Protestants and Catholics, mainly in the German territories. The war was sparked by an uprising of the Bohemian Protestant estates against the Holy Roman Emperor and King Ferdinand II of Bohemia. The Estates elected Fredrick V, Elector Palatine and leader of the Protestant Union, to be their king instead, but he was defeated by the Imperial forces in the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620. Sweden also became involved in the war in 1630. The conflict was terminated by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

Tours: Abbey of St Martin: founded in 375 by St Martin (316-397), Bishop of Tours and the first abbot; in Carolingian times an important centre for the production of Bibles, most often in a single volume and richly illuminated.

Verso: the back side of a leaf that if undisturbed is always a left-hand page.

Vulgate: really Versio Vulgata (Lat. the common version), the Latin Bible translation made by Jerome at the command of Pope Damasus I; the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church since 1546.

Visigoths: one of two main branches of the Goths which founded kingdoms in Gaul and Spain during the 5th century. Conquered respectively by the Franks in 507 and the Arabs’ in 711. Christianised in the second half of the 4th century, but adhered to the Arian version of Christianity.