Friday, January 23, 2015

the manuscript

When Thomas goes to France, he spends a lot of time looking at old manuscripts, and he talks about them a lot at home. Jamie has picked up on that and knows that Daddy likes manuscripts. So that's what he wanted to get Thomas for Christmas. Of course we couldn't really get one, so what we did instead was to make him one. I chose the beginning of The Hobbit for our text. I wrote out the words and made fancy letters that Jamie then decorated. He also added borders and a couple of miniature illustrations. Originally I planned to do the first chapter, but that turned out to be a crazy idea. It took forever to write out just the amount I did, and I have never so fully appreciated the invention of the printing press! Thomas loved our illuminated manuscript.

With it I included a little "scholarly" article describing the manuscript and its discovery. I had to look up a lot of terminology about both manuscripts and Middle Earth in order to write it. Here's the text of the article:

Manuscript showing onset of Quest of Erebor discovered

An illuminated manuscript, showing one of the earliest known examples of Middle-earth historical records, was discovered by an intern at the Gondor University library. It was found along with many other Ardan and non-Ardan fragments in 2014 during restoration of the university chapel. The MS is written on vellum, and radiocarbon analysis has dated the parchment to T.A. 2942 with 99% accuracy. Furthermore, it was dated by one of the world’s leading paleographers, who said he was 'certain' it was from the Third Age.

Scholars believe that the text reveals the beginning of an episodic quest taking place some years prior to the War of the Ring. This fragment details the first meeting between the hobbit Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey. The ‘adventure’ which is alluded to in the text must certainly refer to the Quest of Erebor, which occurred a mere eighty years prior to the end of the Third Age. If so, the MS greatly enhances our knowledge of this last period before many important figures apparently disappeared from the record, believed to have left Middle-earth entirely, perhaps for the Uttermost West.

While believed to be only the beginning of a longer work, the MS reveals substantive findings regarding the transcription practices of the time. It contains many variations of illuminated letters. Indeed, the text, which is found solely on the recto pages with the verso pages being left blank in every case, is supplemented with substantive decoration—decorated initials, as mentioned, and also significant examples of borders/marginalia and miniature illustrations. One particularly stunning example of marginalia occurs on the seventh page of the MS. Towards the bottom of the left-hand side, a dragon’s head is featured spewing out brilliant red and orange flames that reach around the entire further length of the border. This page alone contains four initials. In the middle of the right-hand column is an illuminated letter ‘G,’ the initial of ‘Gandalf.’ Two pages have detailed miniatures, one of a hobbit standing beside the door to his home and the other of the wizard Gandalf himself. In short, these pages are exquisitely decorated and they have been beautifully preserved.

Summing up the importance of the find, the significance of this work lies in its inherent artistic and historical value, and the maintenance of a link between the Third and Fourth Ages that it affords us.

An edition will likely be published next year.

We had so much fun making it, and Thomas just loved it.


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  2. That accompanying article is great, I love the descriptions of the illustrations! :)