The little things (KBR 5100-4)

Having recently visited the Royal Library in Brussels for the second time to study MS 5100-4, I wanted to share with you some small discoveries that put a smile on my face.

For those of you new to the manuscript (see here), this is a composite manuscript consisting of individual booklets of texts copied by Michél Ó Cléirigh as part of his work for the Franciscans in Louvain, who at that time began to collect religious materials from Ireland for posterity. The separate ‘copy books’ can be identified, among other things, by the scribal pagination. There are three numbering systems in the manuscript: foliation in dark pencil, scribal pagination, and from quire 2 (second copy book) onwards, light pencil foliation that continues onward from the scribal pagination of quire 4. The main sections in the manuscript, as indicated by the scribal pagination, consist of a section containing poetry, the prologue and commentary to the Félire, the Félire itself, the Martyrology of Gorman, and the Martyrology of Tallaght.

Quire Contents Dark pencil  ff Light pencil ff Scibal pagination
2—4 Poetry 6—39 1—67 (39r)
5—6 Preface and Commentary to Félire 40—65 68—93 1—45 (ends 65r)
7—8 Félire Óengusso 66—93 94—121 1—51 (ends 91v)
9—19 Martyrology of Gorman (9, part of 18, and 19 are autographs and notes) 94—180 122—207 1 (=100r)—141 (ends 170v)
20—21 Martyrology of Tallaght (foll. by Comainmniughud) 180—201 208—228 1—12 (ends 192r, text ends 197r)
KBR MS 5100-4, sections with scribal pagination © Nicole Volmering, March 2018 (research carried out in February-March 2016 and February 2018)

Index to the commentary, KBR MS 5100-4 f. 42r (own image) Low resolution images posted courtesy of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België.

Even if your main interest is only in part of the manuscript, it is always helpful to get a sense of what the scribe was doing with the compilation as whole. In this particular manuscript I came across some nice personal touches. For instance, the commentary to the Félire is preceded by an index (fol. 42r). This paints a lively picture of the scribe trying to organise and navigate through his material (which a little bit of a jumble of short stories). The index includes the page numbers as well as occasionally the year of the saint’s death.

Tags indicating the start of each month of the Martyrology of Gorman. KBR MS 5100-4, f. 100r (own image) Low resolution images posted courtesy of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België.

There are further signs of active organising too, like this lovely set of little tags, neatly pasted in, marking the start of each month of the Martyrology of Gorman. A few have broken off, but on some the name of the month is still readable. The text of the martyrology, with numbering and dominical letters, begins on f. 100r starting on f. 100 (f. 128 in light pencil), at one time numbered 1 by the scribe, to mark the start of the text (the new quire beginning with the previous folio).

Also visible on this photo is the ruling, which shows that the main text was written one line of text per line, while the glosses were written roughly half-size, filling the ruled space with two lines of text. The number 1, marking the start of this section, sits perfectly between the double-ruled bounding lines.

Fingerprint, KBR MS 5100-4, f. 193v (own image) Low resolution images posted courtesy of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België.

My favourite discovery however is on fol. 193v. At the bottom right just above the start of a catchword (referring to Lasar on the next page), a fingerprint was left on the page, presumably due to a small ink spill at the time of writing. Might this be Michél Ó Cléirigh’s own fingerprint?


Update: As of September 2019 you can now finally inspect the full contents of this manuscript on:!



(Edited in 2020 to add reference to digital catalogue and move page)

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