Glossary of Terms for Manuscript Studies

  Term Definition
Anglicana Formata Formal cursive script used as a book hand in England in the 14th century.
catchword A word written in the margin on the last page of a gathering, being the first word of the next gathering.
cautio note  
codex A manuscript in the form of a book. From caudex the Latin for 'tree bark'
colophon An inscription added to the end of a manuscript book when it was completed. It usually has information regarding the circumstances of production of the manuscript, and occasionally the date. It is also used to designate the emblem or device of the publishing house.
common profit book  
contraction Method of abbreviation. The word is abbreviated in some place other than the end, and is marked with '-' or some other symbol.
Display script Decorative script with better letters and more colours. It often has an enlarged initial. It is used for emphasis, especially of a major textual opening.
ductus The order and direction in which the strokes which make up a letter are executed.
ex libris inscription An inscription that records a book's inclusion in a library, either institutional or personal. In Islamic manuscripts, these can be hand-written or in the form of a stamped seal (and sometimes both occur for the same owner).
expunctuation A form of error correction. "Letters were also cancelled by expunctuation, where the incorrect letter(s) are dotted; dulcedo (37r), redempcionem (118r), ad te (308r). An alternative form of expunctuation, using a triangular group of dots, marks Ecce (20r) and intimis (25r)." - Burnet Psalter, MS 25.
florilegium Anthology, or collection of extracts from various works.
gold-tooled binding Gold decoration on the covers andspine of the book.
grisaille (from French gris, 'grey') A painting done entirely in shades of grey or another neutral greyish colour. Grisaille is sometimes used for underpainting or for sketches (Rubens often painted sketches in grisaille), and in the Renaissance it was used for finished works imitating the effects of sculpture. The earliest known use of grisaille is in Giotto's series of Virtues and Vices (c. 1305) in the Arena Chapel in Padua.
hierarchy of scripts "Note the hierarchy of scripts here: Rustic Capitals (ll.7-8), Uncials (ll.9-10) for the rubric and title, and Luxeuil Minuscule for the main text." Relates to the layout of the text on the page.
historiated initial Enlarged initial letter containing a painting of an identifiable scene or figure(s), usually relating to the text.
inhabited initial An illuminated initial containing animals or human figures, but not an identifiable narrative scene. It is typical of Romanesque illumination.
origin Seldom recorded unless in a colophon.
palimpsest A manuscript which has been re-used by scraping off the original text and writing over the top.
pecia System of transcription of books in some universities, by which students hired master copies in sections to make their own transcripts.
per cola et commata In the early fifth century, St. Jerome, translator of the Bible, devised a system known as per cola et commata, in which each unity of sense would be signaled by a letter jutting out of the margin, as if beginning a new paragraph. Three centuries later, the punctus, or dot, was used to indicate both a pause within the sentence and the sentence's conclusion. Following such muddled conventions, authors could hardly expect their public to read a text in the sense they had intended.
probatio pennae In the Middle Ages, when pens were still made from feathers, scribes used to test their new quills on the pages of the book on which they were working at the time. In 1932 an English academic in an Oxford library found a loose piece of parchment which had been used to reinforce the binding of a book, and on which, alongside a Latin inscription, a verse in Old Dutch has been immortalised as the so-called "probatio pennae".
Protogothica Early form of Gothic script of the 11th and 12th centuries; also known as transitional Gothic.
protogothica glossularis  
protogothica textualis
quire signature A mark(usually letters and numbers), with which a quire of pages has been signed, usually at the foot of the opening recto, to guide a binder in folding sheets and putting them in the right order. The signing is now often along the outer fold, which is hidden in the binding of the book.
roll A very long narrow document which is stored in rolled form. There were stored in capsae, and labelled with a colophon.
scriptorum The room in a monastery where writing was undertaken.
secundo folio The first word or words of text appearing on the second leaf of a work or manuscript. Frequently cited in medieval (usually institutional) library catalogues as a means of distinguishing between multiple copies of the same work which share the same INCIPIT.
suspension Type of abbreviation. "Abbreviation by suspension consists in leaving the word unfinished; the omission being indicated by a stroke, which cuts through any ascender that may be in its way." The end of the word is abbreviated with a '-', or another symbol, to show the ommission.
tetramorph \Tet"ra*morph\ (?), n. [Tetra- + Gr. &?; form, figure: cf. Gr. &?; fourfold.] (Christian Art) The union of the four attributes of the Evangelists in one figure, which is represented as winged, and standing on winged fiery wheels, the wings being covered with eyes. The representations of it are evidently suggested by the vision of Ezekiel (ch. i.)
Uncial Script derived from late Roman form, comprising rounded capitalised letters
Half Uncial Script of the early medieval period, derived from late Roman, containing both minuscule and majuscule forms.
watermark Image left in paper from a wire device used in the frame whist making the paper. Usually found in the form of a design or monogram, and used to identify the manufacturer.