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King Richard f326 *

Glossary of technical terms

National Library of Scotland -


This glossary accompanies the essays in this electronic edition and provides brief explanations of the various technical terms used to describe the manuscript's physical make-up, production, texts and historical context.


Anglicana Formata
A separate, more stable and more formal version of what Parkes (1969) has called the 'Anglicana' script, the script that became the major bookhand of the fourteenth century.

The French term for a workshop. That is, a studio where several craftsmen skilled in the decorative aspects of manuscript production (rubrication, illumination, and so on) would work together.


binding (n.)
The covers and cords which hold the manuscript together. The medieval manuscripts which have come down to us today have often been rebound a number of times since they were first produced. See: codex, quire, gathering, sewing holes.

Generic term for a common type of script used by English scribes.

A group of quires stitched together. Booklets are also sometimes referred to as fascicles or, in the case of incunabula and printed books, gatherings. A booklet is one of the structural units of the codex. Unlike quires, booklets are independent units, self-contained with regard to content (that is, containing only whole texts). In some cases they therefore circulated independently prior to being assembled with other booklets to form a manuscript book. In other cases, booklets represent a stage in manuscript production and never did (and never were intended to) circulate separately. A booklet may also represent a speculative stage of production, with purchasers choosing from a scribe or bookman's selection of ready-made booklets.


A word or phrase written by a scribe/editor at the end of a quire or booklet to indicate which quire or booklet should follow next. The catchword serves as a link as it repeats the word/phrase at the start of the next folio.

codex (pl. codices)
Brown (1994) defines codex as "...a book composed of folded sheets sewn along one edge, distinct from other writing vehicles such as the roll or tablet...".

The study of the physical construction and make-up of a book. Codicological analysis is employed in order to attempt to better understand the production, circulation and subsequent history of the book.

Description of a book's physical structure. That is, the arrangement and construction of quires and booklets within the codex. This may refer to, on the one hand, the original structure of the book and, on the other, the book's current structure.

Lines of text arranged vertically on a folio. A folio can be set out in single column, or double columns, and the Battle Abbey Roll in Auchinleck is in four columns. Columns are referred to alphabetically from left to right so that, in the case of double columns, the left-hand column is referred to as column 'a' and the right-hand column is column 'b'.

Horizontal supporting bands, usually of leather, onto which quires are sewn on the spine of the book.


The closing of a text. From the Latin explicitus: 'unrolled'. For example, as appears at the end of Seynt Katerine, f.21ra.


Abbreviation for folio (see folio and ff).

A reproduction of a manuscript. A facsimile may be typographical (presenting the text as it appears on the manuscript page but in modern type), photographic (photographs of the folios) or it may go further in attempting to represent the manuscript with greater fidelity (physically reproducing damage, worm holes, staining, the thickness of the folios, and so on).

Another term for booklet or, in the case of incunabula or printed books, gathering.

Abbreviation for folios (see: folio and f).

The numbering of leaves in a manuscript.

folio (pl. folios, or folia)
A sheet of writing material (in this case, one page of the manuscript book). See: vellum.

A section of a manuscript or folio which has been damaged and become separated from the original quire or codex and represents only a fraction of the original.


Gathering is the term used for the units of construction in a printed book. It is the equivalent of the terms fascicle or booklet applied to the manuscript book.

guide letter
A letter written, often by the scribe, to indicate to the illuminator or rubricator which initial to supply.


The distinctive visual features of the writing of an individual scribe. This is different to script, which refers to the model of handwriting.

historiated initial
An initial which is decorated so that it includes a specific scene or figures. The scene and figures may be from the text to which the initial relates.


Coloured artwork in a manuscript. Brown (1994) states that: "...Illumination, from the Latin illuminare, 'to enlighten or illuminate,' is the embellishment of a manuscript with luminous colors (especially gold and silver)...A miniature is sometimes referred to as an illumination...".

The opening of a manuscript text. From the Latin incipere: 'to begin'.

The enlarged capital letters which often divide up texts in a manuscript. Initials range from simple, unornamented enlarged letters to highly elaborated, illuminated works of art. See: historiated initial.

The term used to refer to an unspecified text in a manuscript book.

item number
The number allocated to an item. There may be a difference between the original item numbers (given by the manuscript's scribe/editor) and those allocated by subsequent librarians (to account for lost texts, re-arrangements, or errors in the original numbering).


A polyglot text. For example, the The Sayings of the Four Philosophers in the Auchinleck Manuscript which alternates lines of English and French.

Etymologically, manuscript literally means hand written (manu + scripta). It has come to be used to refer to a book written by hand. See: ms.

Abbreviation for Middle English.

Middle English
The name given to the English language in its stage of development between Old English and Early Modern English. It is debatable when the Middle English phase actually began and ended. Crystal (1995) brackets the period between the dates 1066 and the mid-fifteenth century though other accounts suggest significantly later dates; for example, the 1154 continuation of The Peterborough Chronicle may be regarded as a marker of the start of the period which is sometimes seen to extend into the sixteenth century. Burnley distinguishes 'early' (1100 - 1300) from 'later' (1300 - 1500) Middle English and the texts contained in Auchinleck, which originate from the decades either side of 1300, are important to understanding this transition. At the beginnings of Middle English, changes from Old English are detectable at all linguistic levels and include simplification of the inflexional system. At its end, Middle English may be seen to give way to greater standardisation during the period when printing became established. See: ME.

Brown (1994) defines miniature as: "...A independent illustration, as opposed to a scene incorporated into another element of the decorative scheme such as a border or initial. It takes its name from the Latin miniare, meaning 'to color with red' (the adornment of books originally was executed in red, or minium)...".

ms (pl. mss)
Abbreviation for manuscript.


From the Greek palaiographia: 'ancient writing'. It refers to the study of scripts (and includes abbreviation, punctuation, decipherment and dating).

paragraph signs (or, paraphs)
The symbols used to visually divide up a manuscript text. Parkes (1969) describes the paraph as a symbol "...developed from the letter C...with a vertical stroke, which largely replaced the paragraphus... to indicate the beginning of the paragraph, proposition, stanza or section...".

The process of repairing holes in a folio by pasting in a replica piece of vellum.


A group of folios folded and stitched together. Quires are the units of which the codex is constructed. See: booklet, fascicle and gathering.


Refers to the position on the folio. That is, the recto side of the folio, in column a (the left-hand column). See: column, folio, recto.

Refers to the position on the folio. That is, the recto side of the folio, in column b (the right-hand column). See: column, folio, recto.

The front side of a folio. In an open manuscript, the recto side of the folio appears on the right-hand side. See: verso, ra., rb.

Writing or decoration in red ink.

Folios were ruled to provide guide lines for copying and this ruling often consists of a frame with horizontal lines for writing. Scribes often ruled the folio themselves before they began copying. Ruling may be in ink, pencil or drypoint.


One who undertakes the physical act of writing by hand. This includes those who take down dictation or notes (perhaps onto a wax tablet), amateur scribes writing for themselves, professional copyists, and authors writing down their own works. In the case of the Auchinleck manuscript, the scribes were all, it seems, professionals who copied each text from an exempla.

A particular type, or model, of handwriting. There were different categories of medieval script, often used for different purposes or types of text. An individual scribe may know several different scripts. See also: hand.

scriptorium (pl. scriptoria, or scriptoriums)
A room for writing. Most often this term is used to refer to the place where books were made in a monastery or church.

sewing holes
The codex is stitched together during binding. Traces of previous bindings can therefore be seen in the holes which survive for stitching.

In order to arrange quires and booklets into a volume, a compiler would often mark each folio with a symbol indicating its place within the volume. Commonly, each quire will be allocated a letter (a / b / c and so on) and each folio within that quire will be allocated a number (i / ii / iii and so on); so the signatures on the completed volume will begin ai, aii, aiii, aiv in the first quire, bi, bii, biii, biv, in the next quire, and so on through the volume. The way that manuscripts are constructed from groupings of folios necessitates this system though often, especially in earlier manuscripts, the system of signatures that appears in a manuscript will be ad hoc.

The remaining (thin or thick) section of vellum on the binding side when a folio has been removed (having been cut or torn out).


The process of cutting off the edges of the three outer sides (that is, the sides not in the binding) of all the folios in the codex. This regularises the size of folios when the original pieces of vellum may have been of irregular sizes and shapes.


Refers to the position on the folio. That is, the verso side of the folio, in column a (the left-hand column). See: column, folio, verso.

Refers to the position on the folio. That is, the verso side of the folio, in column b (the right-hand column). See: column, folio, verso.

Calf skin, treated and prepared so that it can be used as a surface for writing.

The back of a folio. In an open manuscript, the verso side of the folio appears on the left-hand side. See: recto, va., vb.