Saturday, October 9, 2010

Irish Scribal Colophon - poor me!

Oráit annso dona macaib fogluma 7 is catad in scel bec he 7 na tarbra aithbhir na litir orum 7 is olc in bub 7 in memram gann 7 is dorcha an la!

A Prayer here for the students; and it is a hard little story and do not reproach me concerning the letters and the ink is bad and the parchment scanty and the day is dark!

So reads a small note at the end of a passage relating to s. Finnian in a manuscript preserved in the Royal Irish Academy (ms C I 2, fl.38v). The Irish scribe (probably from Tipperary) was exasperated after finishing his poorly written work, blaming the ink, writing material and poor lighting. Life in an Irish scriptorium, or any medieval scriptorium, was never easy. No wonder that Theodore the Studite (c. AD 800) in Constantinople proscribed 30 penances for scribes who smashed their pens in anger!

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