It’s in English!

I ordered one more document from the National Archives to help bolster the MMP-1. Well, really I ordered it because I am nosy. I’m not sure it will add anything to my argument, but I’m curious about what one person thought she was doing, and what other people had to say about it.

It hadn’t previously been scanned. This is a good thing because it means I get a high-quality photograph instead of a low-quality scan from microfilm. Even so, when I first opened it I groaned, because the document has some wrinkles that will make parts of it hard to read, and of course it has those long lines that make lines hard to track across the page.

But when I zoomed in on the writing, it was in English, not Latin. That is going to make it so much easier to decipher. Not only that, it’s in a noticeably more modern hand than the IPM from the previous century. Between those two changes, I’ll be able to read it far more quickly than I expected, although I think I will still have to transcribe it because (due to long lines) if it’s blown up to a size I can read, it doesn’t fit on my monitor.

I feel like a bad medievalist because I am so happy to get to read this thing in English instead of Latin legalese. I am convinced that Real Scholars (TM), like for instance Jon Jarrett, don’t mind reading in abbreviated Latin. For the moment, however, I am content to be a Fake Scholar. I play a medievalist on the Internet. 😉

I dreamed

that I forgot to write my paper for Kalamazoo.

I discovered this when sitting outside the room where I was supposed to present, during the preceding session. I remembered writing the paper, or writing something about it. But the paper was not in the folder where I expected to find it. In another folder, I found my notes. The paper was supposed to be on “Pulling Back the Bedcurtains in the Seven Sages of Rome and Le Roman de Silence.” How alliterative. Mostly my notes consisted of carefully copied passages from the poems, in a Caroline minuscule with Anglicana traits (talk about bastard hands), apparently done with a fine-tip felt pen. Capitals were colored in alternating red and blue, and I’d done a few historiated initials at the start of particularly important bits.

I was trying to work out whether I should just bag the session entirely (there were four papers scheduled, so it wouldn’t have been too awful not to show up, I thought) or try to do some sort of talk based on my notes.

Waking up was partly relief and partly annoyance, because I would have liked to know what my argument was and why it had been so important to produce a hand-copied, prettified set of quotations.

Oh, Parliament . . .

I did not know that parchment had remained in use until the present day by this august institution, but I am disappointed that the tradition is ending. While it is true that high-quality paper lasts for centuries, parchment lasts longer. The cost doesn’t seem high enough to make much difference in a country’s budget. Will sixteenth-century Acts of Parliament still be available to scholars when the 21st-century ones have crumbled to dust?

I had not thought about this question before: what style of handwriting was used through the twentieth century for the written-on-parchment records of the British Parliament? I’ve never looked at anything later than the 17th century.

Lapsus digiti

I needed to search for an idea, and typed “the vale of bad scribes.”

This vale of tears, filled with bad scribes.  The mountain valley where no good scribe will venture to teach decent techniques.  The steep alley off the main drag where the bad scribes, who can’t afford the rent in a better location, set up shop. The retirement community for those whose eyes are poor and hands shaky.  I can think of so many interpretations of this phrase, though it wasn’t what I was looking for.

What would happen . . .?

The sixteenth-century will I am currently reading is a bad-quality PDF.  So I started hunting through menus to see if there were any tricks I could deploy to make it more legible, and discovered that I could “Activate Read Out Loud.”

Considering that the will is in a secretary hand, and that even though I have considerable experience with such hands, I keep having to tell myself, “no, no, that’s not ‘hippopotamus,’ try again—d, now there’s an abbreviation on the first p,” I really wonder what would happen if I did Activate that function.  Sir John is still asleep or I would try it.

I expect it would either give the program a nervous breakdown or result in “spam” readings—like “the hippopotamus lying in the piff of faint John Baptist”—since it probably couldn’t cope with the abbreviation for “parish,” or the long S.

Here is some of my blog spam:

Good Blog You Got Here.
It is appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy.
je trouve ton blog vraiment sympa.

Very encouraging, isn’t it?  Spam is sometimes like reading a horoscope, providing a silly little lift to the spirits.

What a difference a brain makes

Less than three hours ago, I finished a good, solid draft of the MMP’s companion-piece.

It comes in at a bit over 6000 words, the suggested length of an article for the journal I’m aiming at.  It needs a lot of grooming: adding line numbers (where I was working from the manuscript) and folio numbers (where I was working from the edition), turning vague notes to myself into proper footnotes, and putting it in the format of the journal’s style sheet.  But the hard part, the thinking part, the working out the argument and making it all coherent, that is done.

It’s true I got a lot done earlier this spring and before I got Here.  All the same, most of that was painfully chipped out between other pressing obligations.  It feels quite different to have the luxury of time.  Not just time to work, but also time to relax, to let the back of the brain work, instead of filling up the back-of-brain with the hideous lists of must-do-this, don’t-forget-to-do-that.  Three days.  Three days here was all it took to finish this piece.  Two of those days were spent reading and taking notes.  I took 1800 words’ worth of notes.  Today those 1800 words and a couple of older paragraphs generated 1100 new words for the actual essay; then I moved another 1000 or so words in from the conference paper; and that was that.  And when I say “days” what I really mean is 2-3 hours a day, an amount that you’d think I could find easily enough at home.  But I can’t, not on a regular basis, and even when I can, so many other things (work and non-work) press on my attention.  In a way, although I feel considerable sympathy for Sir John’s present frazzlement, it is a relief to know that dealing with the combination of our fur people and a job drives him, too, round the bend (and he’s better at planning, organizing, and concentrating than I am).  So it’s not just me, not that I am so hopeless at dealing with life and time; as a family, we really have taken on a lot with this particular batch of cats and other choices about how to live.

They are choices.  And I’m not sure I would do anything differently (I’ve listed my reasons for commuting elsewhere).  But it surely is useful to make the comparison between this summer and my normal life.

In the meantime, I have celebrated with a nice lunch in a fifteenth-century building (so appropriate) and a bit of mostly unnecessary but nonetheless useful and satisfying shopping, including pricing Champagne.  Now I am going to prepare class for tomorrow, and then go feed some ducks and gloat a little more.  And tomorrow, the grooming will begin.  If I can get this essay submitted within a week, I’ll let you know which bubbly gets the nod for the celebration.

In the eye of the beholder

Comrade Physioprof opines, in the comments to my last, that I have “an illness.”

Oh, yes, I do, but it’s not what he thinks.

Organizing one’s books in LC order is a minor eccentricity for an English professor (and visit the Little Professor’s blog, say here, for an example of someone who has more books than I do); among librarians, I’m sure it’s considered a professional hazard at worst, and probably a sign that you really love your job.

However, staying up three hours past bedtime to pore over snippets of excruciatingly illegible secretary hand (see here for an example) in an effort to decide whether any of them were written by the same chap who signed his name on a flyleaf, and if so how many, and whether the marginalia with very similar letter forms but with a different slant should be assigned to the same chap or assumed to be from a different writer . . . that’s sick.

I can grant that, but I still think people with food blogs are weird.

Weekend bullets

  • Sir John has had a cold for several days. I think I’m finally getting it. So I’m staying up late to try to finish grading before I feel awful.
  • Of course I should have finished already.
  • Why, with all the “teaching to the test” that presumably happens in schools these days, can my students not manage to read and follow simple instructions?
  • Grading the outlines of essays (on exams) goes much faster than grading translations.
  • I can’t believe I made it through the whole semester without getting sick; but then, why now? Why could I not just avoid illness altogether?
  • I would much rather be working on the MMP, and this morning I procrastinated for awhile by staring at handwriting snippets trying to decide if one A resembled another. Or not.
  • On a related handwriting question, I found a reference to an opinion of Ian Doyle’s that was . . . wrong. Not in a major way, but he left out a perfectly legible* letter. My world reeled.
  • *Perfectly legible if you read English secretary hands.
  • Every time I look at an example of secretary, I panic and think all my skills have fled, or maybe I was deluding myself all along. It takes several minutes to get my eye in and start seeing the shapes again.
  • Really I should be thinking big-picture thoughts about the MMP, not tiny-detail thoughts. Have I mentioned that I’m nearsighted?
  • Must finish grading translations. Then if I’m sick tomorrow I can spend days lying on the couch watching B5 DVDs and drinking toddies, guilt-free.

Dating is hell

The new MS is all kinds of interesting, but there is a problem: since the hand is the same, and the MS is securely dated, my identification of last summer is wrong.

Just plain wrong. Impossible. Factually incorrect. As I said then, there’s no way to hand-wave my way out of this.

At least I haven’t made the claim in print. But still: a lot of research and clever connections that I thought had me well on the way to a cool publication, all that is right down the drain.

Calvinball. Humph. I think I just scored against my own side.

OMG ponies!!! Elebenty!!11!

A manuscript scan popped into my inbox this morning.

It’s the same hand

This is very exciting.

I know you have no idea what I’m talking about. But it’s good news.

So I have to think about whether I’m sticking with my goal of finishing a book chapter this fall, or whether I want to get on with this other project while it’s relatively fresh in my mind. There is a bit of a problem about visiting this other manuscript, given my teaching schedule. But that’s a mere detail.