Book as Object, Book as Work.

Another interesting passage from Simon Franklin’s The Russian Graphosphere, 1450-1850 (see this post); he says we tend to assume a book is equivalent to a work:

With regard to medieval manuscripts, this assumption is not valid. There is no regular one-to-one relationship between the book-as-object and the book-as-work. Nor, indeed, was there a consistent relationship between the contents of a book and its title. The contents of the book-as-object were generally determined by the function of the text for its intended users, not by considerations of authorial identity or integrity. […]

A good example is provided by the activities of the scribe Efrosin of the Kirillo-Belozerskii monastery in the late fifteenth century. Efrosin’s annotations have been identified in more than thirty manuscripts, but his most substantial output consists of six large volumes for which he was the principal scribe. Efrosin’s manuscripts are bulky, ranging from 421 to 638 leaves (that is, in modern terms, between 842 and 1276 pages). Two of them, including the longest (which Efrosin tells us he wrote out over the course of four years), consist of readings for monastic services. The other four, in smaller format, were probably for ‘cell’ reading. Together they include an enormous range of ‘works’, often described as encyclopedic. These are anthologies, florilegia. The full list of the titles of the works and extracts which they contain runs to more than 700 items, and the detailed scholarly description of their contents fills nearly 300 pages of a large-format, late-twentieth-century small-print journal. Many of these works are very brief, taking up no more than a leaf or three: individual prayers, homilies, extracts from canon law, accounts of miracles, advice. Some are substantial: thirteen leaves of the Tale of Drakula; fifty-eight leaves of the pilgrimage of the abbot Daniil to the Holy Land; 174 leaves of the novel of Alexander the Great.

Equivalent compilations are typical of monastic book production. […] With such compendia the line between scribe and compiler or editor, or even scholar, becomes somewhat blurred. Although most scribal production consisted of copying, few texts and compilations, especially in non-liturgical, non-scriptural functions, were fully stable. It is hard to define when a manuscript copy becomes a new ‘book’ in the compositional as well as the physical sense.

Comments

  1. Together they include an enormous range of ‘works’, often described as encyclopedic. These are anthologies, florilegia.The full list of the titles of the works and extracts which they contain runs to more than 700 items, and the detailed scholarly description of their contents fills nearly 300 pages of a large-format, late-twentieth-century small-print journal. Many of these works are very brief, taking up no more than a leaf or three: individual prayers, homilies, extracts from canon law, accounts of miracles, advice.

    Like this blog.

  2. Sure, but we (20-21c. people) also have anthologies. Scientist (in certain fields?) sometimes write “book chapters” and, my understanding is, even without much knowledge of what is going to be in other chapters.

  3. Sure, but those are still fixed books with fixed contents in multiple copies, not one-off compilations of whatever some scribe happened to feel like copying.

  4. John Cowan says:

    The title of “First Grammarian” (of Icelandic) sounds impressive, but he’s called that because his (anonymous) work is called “the First Grammatical Treatise”, which in turn just means that in the Codex Wormianus, which contains four grammatical works along with the E, his was bound first. (Nevertheless, his grammar is very impressive; he is the first to use minimal pairs to establish the phonemes of a language, and tells us about the nasal vowels which we would otherwise know nothing about, modulo Elfdalian, and might assume were an innovation there.) Unfortunately, it does not contain Worm’s Latin translation of the Necronomicon. I should perhaps add that The Complete Lojban Grammar, which I mostly wrote, has been dubbed (not by me) the Codex Woldemar

  5. David Eddyshaw says:

    I’ve often wondered about the Facts in the Case of the Codex Woldemar.

  6. John Cowan says:

    The table of contents. There are quite a number of facts there, and even more in the book itself.

    ObOopsie: for “the E” above read “the Younger Edda”.

  7. David Marjanović says:

    and might assume were an innovation there

    No, because most of them correspond to vowel + nasal consonant sequences in West and East Germanic, and the remainder (e.g. in the cognates of brought, thought) correspond to such sequences elsewhere in Indo-European.

  8. Trond Engen says:

    John C.: ObOopsie: for “the E” above read “the Younger Edda”.

    I just assumed it was a piece of terminological shorthand I hadn’t picked up.

  9. I just assumed they found ecstasy in the codex.

  10. January First-of-May says:

    I just assumed it was a piece of terminological shorthand I hadn’t picked up.

    I think I interpreted it as meaning “the aforementioned work” (which in this context would have referred to the First Grammatical Treatise).

  11. I can’t believe no one has mentioned the Tale of Drakula.

  12. January First-of-May says:

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned the Tale of Drakula.

    I wanted to, but I decided to look it up first, and then I realized that explaining it properly would require a very long comment that I didn’t feel like writing.

    TL/DR: it’s a screed about how [Vlad III, the Impaler] Drakula, whose name meant “Devil” in Wallachian [it didn’t, it meant “son of dragon”], was evil, and did lots of evil stuff, with a kind of twisted justice that actually made some sense in places, but mostly seemed to show how his morality (to the extent that he had one) was nothing like the good Russian one.
    (Basically, the sort of stuff that he got the “Impaler” nickname for.)

    You can read an English translation here (based, as it happens, on Efrosin’s specific copy).

    The really weird thing was the “it means Devil in Wallachian” part. Vlad III died in 1476, and this copy of the screed was written in 1486 and updated in 1490 (Efrosin says so in the postscript) – and presumably the original, if one existed, was even older – so contemporary enough that there were still many people who remembered him (admittedly probably not in Russia); which really makes me wonder how did such an extreme misrepresentation spread that quickly.
    (…On second thought, I suspect that it was deliberate on the part of whoever originally came up with the screed, who likely did know that it didn’t actually mean “Devil”, but, if he did, assumed – probably correctly – that almost none of his Russian readers would have known that anyway.)

  13. I wonder if our closest modern parallel to the medieval book might be something more like the entirety of someone’s google drive folder… or going back a bit, the thumb drive, or going back even further, writable CDs? (And in the case of palimpsesets, rewritable CDs.) Books were not individual works but just portable storage … er, volumes.

  14. David Eddyshaw says:

    Nandriş’ Colloquial Rumanian (sic, it was first published in 1945) gives “devil” as the only meaning of drac in the vocabulary at the back; and as an example of the vocative (p175) has Dracule! “Devil!”

    Google Translate renders drac as “devil”, though it renders “devil” as diavol.

    Is Bad Vlad’s name not connected with this, then?

  15. My understanding is that drac does in fact mean “devil” — in fact, I just looked it up in my Romanian dictionary and that’s the only sense it gives. What makes you so sure it doesn’t, January First-of-May?

  16. January First-of-May says:

    What makes you so sure it doesn’t, January First-of-May?

    …Actually, I was so sure because all the sources I recall having seen said that it referred to dragons, not devils, and the Tale of Drakula (and its further discussion in this thread) was the first time I encountered the “devil” translation at all.
    (In addition, the English translation that I linked to said so directly.)

    Certainly, if I knew of the ambiguity before, I would not have been anywhere near as sure.

    But now that you’re asking…
     

     
    Vlad III Dracula got the “Dracula” part of his name as the possessive (patronymic) form of the (nick)name of his father Vlad II Dracul, which at least in Vlad II’s case is traditionally translated as “dragon”.
    Apparently (I didn’t know that), Vlad II is thought to have gotten the nickname from his membership in the Order of the Dragon (est. 1408), which, if true, would surely imply that “dragon” was the intended meaning.

    It would in any case be strange for any ruler to call himself “the devil”; and since Vlad III is apparently attested to have personally used the name Dracula, presumably, whatever he thought it meant, it would not have been “devil”.
     

    Wikipedia gives the following, citing various scholarly articles:

    “Dracula is the Slavonic genitive form of Dracul, meaning “[the son] of Dracul (or the Dragon)”.[8][9] In modern Romanian, dracul means “the devil”, which contributed to Vlad’s reputation.[9]”
     

    I guess it is possible that the shift from “dragon” (which is presumably the original meaning, the word being cognate with English dragon) to “devil” was already happening as early as the late 15th century; though 1476 to 1490 would not give it that much time. If so, the meaning shift and Vlad III’s negative reputation would have boosted each other.
    I don’t know enough about the history of Romanian to comment on whether that fits the known chronology.

    …Though now I’m even more confident of my theory that someone came up with it deliberately – except that now I think that he would have been working in Wallachia (or nearby), and his audience would not have been naive Russians who didn’t know any Wallachian, but naive Romanians who didn’t know what a dragon was (and/or even thought that a “dragon” was a kind of devil in the first place).

  17. The meaning in modern-day Romanian is certainly devil; I think the question, however, is what it would have meant to the Wallachians of Vlad Tepes’ time. The surname supposedly comes from the more famous voivode’s like-named father having been inducted into Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund’s crusading Order of the Dragon (“Societas Draconistarum” being the formal Latin name). Vlad Dracul’s son, Vlad Tepes kept “Dracula” as a surname, calqued from the Latin. I have seen it variously translated as “son of the dragon,” “of the order of the dragon,” and “of the order of the bat,” among other variations.

    The “bat” version may have been a simple error, influence by Bram Stoker’s vampire character. In fact, I have not seen that translation mentioned in at least a decade. On the other hand, I have always rather hoped that it might actually be giving an interesting insight into the nature of “dragons” in Balkan folklore. (It reminds me of how Nidhogg, the dragon that chews at the roots of the Yggdrasil in Norse mythology, is usually portrayed as serpentine—scaly and often legless. However, sometimes, Nighogg the dragon is not a reptile but a black rat.)

  18. I tried to think of something to look up that wouldn’t be tainted by the whole Dracula mythos… here’s one minor info point: explanations of the surname “Drakulich” seem to go with the theory you might expect (who wants a name referring to he who must not be named?)

    https://books.google.co.th/books?id=FJoDDAAAQBAJ&pg=PA487&lpg=PA487&dq=drakulich+etymology&source=bl&ots=2-a-GAyyGM&sig=ACfU3U16xcyobYWv7gH2g4QbV2f3dw1Irg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwihzvORsafmAhUPVH0KHYnrBGcQ6AEwBnoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=drakulich%20etymology&f=false

  19. David Marjanović says:

    Dragons, as everyone knows, have bat wings.

    and as an example of the vocative (p175) has Dracule! “Devil!”

    Vocative and definite article? That’s downright unholy.

  20. “Random books from my library” on the right margin of this page currently features The Balkan Express: Fragments from the Other Side of War by Slavenka Drakulic. Do people really keep diabolic surnames?

    EDIT: AG was there first

  21. David Marjanović says:

    Do people really keep diabolic surnames?

    Uh, yes. Variants of Teufel and Mannteufel are pretty common.

  22. Not to mention a certain Secretary of Homeland Security

  23. John Cowan says:

    I started to write “the Edda”, stopped to look up which Edda, got lost in the Internet, and when I got back, didn’t notice the lacuna.

    The current Romanian words for ‘dragon’ are zmeu, which is Slavic, and balaur, origin unknown. The semantic shift of drac to ‘devil’ is at least a millennium old, for it is found in all four Romanian languages.

  24. A German-born colleague and I have a running joke that “Hasso von Manteuffel” is the most badass German name ever.

  25. PlasticPaddy says:
  26. David Marjanović says:

    Balaur is a serpent with golden scales. And a many-headed dragon, sometimes winged, sometimes said to outright live in the air. And a bird, though a flightless one.

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