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VMs: Re: Introduction
(5) the ciphertext (and rough layout) was originally done (at speed) by an
intelligencer on a wax tablet - the single-stroke (wax) alphabet requires
many substrokes to render (in ink) on paper.
Nick, you have said this before and I meant to take you up on it.
To the best of my knowledge it was not normal practice to draft a
mediaeval or Renaissance manuscript on wax tablets (true that the
Romans did this).
This is what I too thought - until I did further research on diptyches (or
pugillaria, as they were sometimes called - in France, they were made by
guilds of tabletiers). There's mention of them in Chaucer (14th century),
for example, in the Somonour's Tale.
Here's a link to an excellent page on them by Caroline Priest-Dorman:
Tablets can be seen on red- and black-figure Attic vases from
the Classical period in Greece, and their use as everyday writing
implements was continuous all over Europe until at least the late
fifteenth century. The waxed tablet was used in correspondence,
in teaching, as official or legal records, as a workspace for drafting
speeches or other writings, as a platform for working mathematical
proofs, and no doubt for all sorts of more ephemeral purposes.
This *just* overlaps with the VMS' dates - so would appear to be a further
example of how the VMS is possibly a product of the Middle Ages (but within
an early modern culture).
Are you referring to cipher manuscripts only?
By 1500, it's hard to know what diptyches were still in use for - though
tricky ciphers (as examples of things that it would be easy to make
mistakes with) would seem to be a good candidate for drafting on them.
(6) that text was copied by at least one (probably two) separate
As I have said before, it is my strong impression that the manuscript
is a copy of a lost original.
If (as I think) the original was written onto wax tablets, then there was
an exemplar - it was merely transitory, that's all. :-)
In connection with 1., I note that the illustration on f. 78v forms
a continuous unit with f. 81r: this tends to indicate that the
exemplar consisted of loose bifolios when it was copied (the
association of hands with bifolios, noted by Currier, also bears
Surely this could just as much have indicated two copyists working in
parallel on separate sections?
But there is some indication in the outer bifolio of
the last quire, the recipes section, that the bifolios were copied
with a view to having them bound later: f 103r on the right hand
side of its sheet sits opposite a blank page on the left which
contains only the 'oladabas' sequence. It only makes sense to
leave the left half of the sheet blank and cover the right hand
side with writing if there was always an intention to fold the sheet
over in the process of binding.
It is also possible that the quiration of the VMS was intended to mirror
the quiration of an original set of documents.
I should say that I'm a little uncomfortable about drawing inferences about
quire 20 (of which f103r is the first page) until I have some idea of why
the quire mark is on the first page, not the last. :-/
Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....