Meeting the Manuscript

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After spending several months at the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC), the prayer book has returned, stabilized and ready to be studied. I visited the prayer book last Tuesday at its home in the basement of Northeastern’s Snell Library. At the NEDCC, a small box was made to encase and protect the prayer book.

box

Protective case for the prayer book

Once removed from its box, the prayer book was propped up on either side with foam blocks, which supported its bindings. Being left alone with the prayer book was both exhilarating and terrifying– the book is incredibly small and delicate, yet somehow it has survived for over 500 years. While working with the book, I thought of all of the people who may have also handled it, the scribes who created each page, and the book’s past owners (who for now remain unknown). I spent a little over an hour with the prayer book, studying the front and back cover, paging through the book, and photographing the pages I wanted to study further. When studying the vellum pages, I looked for missing pages, pages with holes, and for anything which stood out from the rest of the book. Soon after turning the first few pages, I was shocked to find that the third page had been removed.

Untitled presentation

The original third page found missing

Then, a few pages further into the prayer book, I found a small vellum page, which rested atop one of the other pages, and seemed separate from the other prayers. The writing on this loose page was in a different hand and a completely different style.

loose page.jpg

A loose piece of vellum found between two pages

This page, like the rest of the prayer book, raises so many questions about the history,  methods of creation, and ownership of the Dragon Prayer Book. And, now that the digital images of the prayer book are in Northeastern’s Digital Repository Service (DRS), we’ll be able to continue studying and transcribing the prayer book wherever there’s internet access.

Laura

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