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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Lindisfarne Gospels 8

It is time to get back to the Lindisfarne gospels. Rather than making progress I am going to digress. There is really only one way to approach new material, and that is to be prepared to go back and check every, absolutely every, tweek and and twitch. I don't do it often enough, but I am in no hurry for this series to end.

In the appreciation of an object of art, one often finds not only beauty but complexity and humour. That is what I see here. The monks of Lindisfarne brought the word to life in more ways than one.

I have fallen into a stupor contemplating the letter M. Here is a perfect example of glyph variants. All these different shapes are M. They rotate and connect in different ways, but they are all M.

If you had no idea of the meaning of the text you were looking at you would not know at first that these were all M. So how do people learn to read manuscripts? Only by noticing each detail, and making connections. Over and over.

If we always approach a text that we are already familiar with in English, we have little chance of experiencing what it meant to be one of the first scribes or translators. But those who work in previously unwritten languages, or with previously undeciphered texts, know that it is something else entirely to simply start at the point of observation and build slowly.

It requires, I think being lost in the pursuit of a seemingly meaningless task. To be satisfied on one level to accept lack of meaning. To approach something with observation alone. And this is why one has to love what one does for its own sake.

It is not enough to always want to argue the point. Some days there is no point to argue. Just enjoy.


And other days, well, sure enough, there is indeed a point to argue. How about these little things? One is a rho cross, one a cross, and one is the sign for vel 'or' in Latin. You don't want to get them confused. These have a similar shape but a distinct semantic value. Enough blah, blah for tonight.
Fortunately I do have the full text of the Lindisfarne gospels sent by a reader. And here is a quote from an article by R. W. Southern which I have also been sent by a reader. Thank you. I have read at least one book by Southern and I would highly recommend his writing about the medieval period. Here is what he says.

    The Jarrow books are sober and unadorned ... The Lindisfarne book, on the other hand, is an extravagant artistic masterpiece, in which the forms of Irish imagination are adapted to a somewhat more restrained, but still luxuriant pattern of visual images.
Noda and Suspensions - useful link for Irish/OE ligatures



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