First day at the library. I'm here to look at one manuscript, and I wasn't even sure whether there would be anything of interest therein--I knew that it contained the oldest version of a vita that I've been working on, but knew nothing about this variant or what else was in the codex. Kind of a gamble, eh, for Field to spend upwards of $3000 for me to look at this thing? Sometimes this profession seems beyond absurd.
Anyway, so I get to the library right when it opens, figure out how to get a card (easy), and gain access to my codex. It shows up at about 9:30, after only a 10-minute wait; I use the time to review my edition of the vita and psych myself up. The codex is small and fat, elegantly rebound at some point--not recently, I'd guess, but certainly not in the fourteenth century. I start in.
First: I copy out the table (or rather paragraph) of contents on the first page, trying my best to decode the Gothic rotunda Latin. It's been...a long while since I engaged in anything approximating paleography. I am Rusty. However, it's not too hard to recognize actual Latin words as opposed to the monstrous mistranscriptions I sometimes concoct, so at least I know which words I'm most likely to have misunderstood.
The excitement begins when I spot my vita listed in the ToC. Then: another medieval woman's life! And a bunch of other random vitae and orae, as well as a totally indecipherable name.
Step two: Start looking through the book, page by page, writing down where each text appears. Blah blah blah. No pictures, occasional decorated initial (nothing fancy), plenty of red ink. Finally I reach my Vita. It's not terribly interesting, visually, but does have one intriguing bit of marginalia--intriguing because it suggests an interest in similar vitae, vitae like the unexpected woman's life. Hm. Okay.
Something I can't identify follows my vita. Ho hum.
A few pages later: WHAT IS IT??? I think. Something crazy! A drawing with a big red mandorla-shaped item in the middle, surrounded by words. Later, I come back to this, and figure out that the red splotch is a wound, and that it is made of blood flowing off of the cross above and into a little spindly, flower-decorated cross below. Coolness. And it contains a prayer of some kind that keeps referring to wounds (I need to translate it--can't be more specific yet. My Latin sure does suck, although I'm doing better than I would have expected ). Alas, the writing to the right of the wound is cramped and hard to make out, and the writing surrounding it is virtually illegible. I do my best.
A few pages later: More visual craziness! One page in a totally different hand lists what appear to be numbers of days associated with individual people (Pope So-and-so three years and twelve days, pope such-and-such sixty days, etc.). In the right-hand column are labeled drawings of, for example, a torch, a bleeding heart, and ten footprints in little boxes. I haven't entirely figured this one out yet. Actually, I haven't figured it out at all, but I'm looking forward to doing so.
Oh, and [indecipherable] turns out to be another contemporary female saint. Some kind of pattern might be emerging. Not sure what yet. Something else to follow up on....
"Madame." The librarian is standing in front of me, whispering. "On ferme."
What? No way. They must be closing early, I think. I emerge: It is ten minutes to five. I've been at it since 9:30 (minus the enforced one-hour break for lunch: the library is closed from 1 until 2). How did this happen? My hand, back, and shoulder ache. Good lord. Why can't I work like this all the time? Or at least one day a week?