Marvel and Artefact

The 'Wonders of the East' in its manuscript contexts


Marvel and Artefact examines the three surviving manuscripts of Wonders of the East (London, BL, Cotton Vitellius A. xv; London, BL, Cotton Tiberius B. v; and Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 614). After outlining the learned tradition of writing on monsters and marvels and the family of texts of which the Wonders of the East is part, A. J. Ford offers a forensic reading of each manuscript in which codex, text and image are studied together as a single artefact. By focussing on the materiality of manuscripts whose origin can only be hypothesized, this innovative and challenging work opens new vistas for the study and interpretation of medieval manuscripts and the cultures that produced them.

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Biographical Note

A. J. Ford, Ph.D. (2009), University of Manchester, is the Vicar of Holy Saviour, Sugley, in the Diocese of Newcastle.

Table of contents

List of Illustrations
List of Figures

Chapter 1
'The Manifold uses of Things': The Early Medieval Book as Artefact

Chapter 2
The Wonders of the East and the Learned Tradition of Marvels
A Brief Overview of the Learned Tradition
The Wonders of the East and the Letter of Pharasmenes to Hadrian

Chapter 3
The Wonders in a Manuscript of Unknown Origin:
London, British Library, Cotton Vitellius A. XV
Cynocephali and Donestre
Other similarities
Anglo-Saxon Square Minuscule: Scribe 2
Style-I English Vernacular Minuscule: Scribe 1
The Significance of Distinct Scripts in Vitellius A. xv
The Consensus Quires
The Contested Quires
The Wonders in Vitellius A. xv: ‘Speaking Beyond the Light’

Chapter 4
The Wonders and the Computus Manuscript:
London, British Library, Cotton Tiberius B. V
The Origin and Audience of Tiberius B. v
Reading Books and the Monastic Library The Materiality of Tiberius B. v
Page Design in Tiberius B. v
The Wonders of the East
The Calendar
Tiberius B. v: the Semiotics of the Computus Manuscript
The Wonders of the East as Semiotic
The Land of Vineyards and the Ivory Couch
The Mountain of Adamant and the Griffin
The Phoenix and its Nest of Cinnamon
The Unnamed Fiery Mountain and its Black Inhabitants
Jamnes and Mambres

Chapter 5
The Wonders and the Schools:
Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 614
The Problem of Dating Bodley 614
Codicological Considerations
Art-Historical Considerations
Palaeographical Considerations
Textual Considerations
The Origin and Sources of Bodley 614
A Palaeographical Comparandum?
The Calendar
The Additions from William of Conches’s De philosophia mundi
De miraculis beati Thomae apostoli
St Urri and the Folklore of Megalithic Monuments
Evidence Concerning Opusculum de ratione spere
The Social Relations of the ‘Twelfth-Century Renaissance’
Bodley 614 and the Practice of the Schools
Selection and Compilation
Self-Aware Commentary
An Illustrative Tradition
The Mythographic Mode
The Fighting Brothers
The Dancing Women

Chapter 6
The Materiality of Marvels



All those interested in book history and manuscript culture, Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, palaeography, art history or codicology; the literature of the Anglo-Saxons; and the materiality of artefacts


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