My Sacred Quest

Last week, I spent all week in libraries in Oxford and then Cambridge. I began in Oxford in order to finish with MSS Bodley 343 and Jesus College 29, as well as to go over the microfilm images of the MS Junius 1 (the Ormulum). I also took that opportunity to look at the microfilm for MS Hatton 114, which contains a homily on the nativity of the Virgin Mary and refers to her as the “sæ steorra.” While I spent about 3 or 4 hours pouring over Hatton 114 in Wednesday, 10th October, I took my time with Junius 1. On Tuesday, 9th October, my eyes ached and hated me for sitting in front of a microfilm machine for 7 hours. Luckily, I was better to myself that day than I have been on other occasions–I actually took a lunch break.

I squinted and adjusted the lens and squinted some more. I unraveled and raveled and unraveled again the scroll of black-and-white images. I even had terrific (read the “terror” in “terrific”) flashbacks to my days as an OPS secretary in the Human Resources office at the Florida Parole Commission, where I worked for 2.5 years and was subjected to days at the microfilm machine to look at old employee records. At least the Special Collections Reading Room in the Radcliffe Science Library didn’t smell like the government building, in which, no matter where you go, you can always smell the horrid cafeteria wafting through the halls. I suppose that helps to mask the utter despair and boredom of the state employees, but I digress.

Here is an example of what I looked at while viewing the microfilm of MS Junius 1 (thank you, Jonathan Wilcox, for making these images available for the pre-conference workshop at ISAS 2011):

Microfilm Image of Folio 10r

Now, compare that image with the digital photograph of the same folio, which is available on LUNA:

Digital Image of Folio 10r

Clearly, the digital image is preferable to the microfilm one because we can observe more about the manuscript through the color and crisp detail of the manuscript. Now, let’s see how well I did with my recreation of this folio in that ISAS pre-conference workshop in July 2011:

My Recreation of Folio 10r

I obviously missed the brown ink at the bottom and the addition by the bottom capital A (among other things), which is why I need to see the original manuscript! I just sent an email to someone at the Bodleian Library with a detailed explanation for my need to see the manuscript, as well as a list of all the folio, column, and line numbers of specific interest.

Here’s hoping he let’s me see it!

[UPDATE: 16 October 2012, 6:06pm] I just received word from Dr. Barker-Benfield from the Bodleian Library–I get to see the Ormulum for two days next week! 😀

About carlamthomas

I received my PhD in 2016, and I'm finishing up a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowship at New York University this year. Next year, barring some last second postdoc or job coming through, I will be living in Tennessee with my husband, dog, and cat to save money while I go on the academic job market yet again. My concentration is Early Middle English literature, language, and manuscript culture although this stretches from Old English influences to later Middle English iterations of developments in my period. I'm also an intersectional feminist, trying to inject such theory into some of my newer work, and I dabble in the monstrous (pre-modern and modern) on occasion.
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