Creative Commons licensed photograph, "Underwood," by Flickr user Canned Muffins

25 Jan

Class Preparation

Class Preparation

January 25

There is something quite meta, or eerie, about a translator’s translation of a translator’s translation, and hearing them both talk about the process of translation. What I found most fascinating about the Preface to Genesis article was actually in the translated Old English version, the author states at the very end, “The bad scribe does much evil if he will not correct his errors.” This stood out to me because I watched the manuscript-making video before reading this transcript, and I was so stressed the entire time about errors. Even though the video made sure to include the durability of the paper for withstanding scratchouts - and Chaucer’s poem even makes reference to such scratching - it still brought to mind a number of questions about scratchouts. For starters, how common were errors? I know personally when handwriting, I make several in a page, and it seems that scriveners, with all their fancy fonts and copying exactly, must make hundreds. What would warrant a scratchout for a scrivener? Is it only a noticable misspelling or glaring error? Or would they scratch out an imperfect-looking letter? Furthermore, how does the paper withstand such scratching? Is it weaker in places where the scratchout occurred? Can historians notice scratchouts, or are they hidden by the scraping process that takes place to thin the paper? Moreover, what do the image artists do if a mistake takes place? Is it equally as easy to scratch it out? What if their gum layer bleeds mistakenly over a line, can that be easily fixed?

All in all, the entire process of manuscript making seems incredibly stressful and it is a wonder that humans persisted in making them despite the challenges. The manuscript making process somewhat reminded me of a child doing arts and crafts: humans are willing to take all sorts of materials and work them into a beautiful project. A kid using sequins and scrap paper to make a piece of art seemingly possesses the same mindset of an adult medieval artist gathering vegetables for dye and painstakingly making parchment from animals. In a weird way, it feels like books from the past aren’t even in the same category as books from the present. They seem more akin to art masterpieces than a simple recording of stories or events. Books today are mass-produced and seem more similar to the replica of paintings you can buy in many gallery stores. Content-wise, they are the same, but one seems so much more important than the other.