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Looking at the Edges

Another day spent communing with the Findern MS in the reading room. I hauled out the lyrics that I've transcribed and checked them against the original. The facsimile that was printed of the Findern in 1977 is splendid, but it was done in a monochrome sepia. That means that if there are two inks on the page and they are different colors, but the same intensity of color— they look the same in the facsimile. In person, of course, I just look down and can see— that's ink, that's a flyspeck, that's someone who's come along later with a different color ink.

The Edges of a Poem

So in "La Belle Dame Sans Mercy" (a debate between a guy who's trying to persuade a lady that she MUST love him, and the said lady who's trying to get him to go away), there are some ink marks drawn next to some of the verse lines. I hadn't noticed them before, because the scribes often kind of make little decorative brackets on the right edges of the stanzas that they copy. But in person, it's clear, these inked lines are drawn by someone else. The only reason I can think of to do that, is to mark them out as important or meaningful— like we might underline a favorite quote. The lines are spoken by the narrator of the poem talking about how he feels the lovers pain because he's felt like that before:

...And in his eye the [god of love's] arrow I knew anon,
Which was feathered with right humble requests.
Then to myself I said, "By God alone,
Such a one was I, even before I saw these gests [stories]."

One can almost see someone reading it and reaching over for a pen to mark those lines, mumbling, "Yep, I've been there too buddy, I've been there too."

The Edges of the Manuscript

The library is letting me photograph the manuscript for research purposes, so I've taken a bunch of shots that show how uneven the bottom edge of the manuscript is. The top edge of the paper has been blocked up square, but a binder (perhaps the modern one, perhaps someone long ago) has had to just make his peace with the bottom edge being jagged. Different sections of the manuscript have paper that is about 1/4 inch longer than other parts. (I can feel your interest waning— stay with me, stay with me— there's a punch line coming. Go glance down at the picture to get yourself interested again, then come back and finish.)

So we call it, the Findern Manuscript because somebody, somewhere, sometime bound these pages together. But just a casual look at the paper in the manuscript shows pretty clearly— these were separate bits originally. Now I'm not the first person to say that, but the occasional person quibbles about it being a bunch of separate booklets. If it is a book, then it is reasonable to perhaps read all the things in it as if they might have some kind of link with each other. And people do that sometimes. But if we know that the Findern started life as a bunch of booklets that were copied at different times by different people, and that they circulated around the house and maybe the neighborhood like that— well then, it's more likely that each booklet might have some internal consistency, but the booklets all grouped together might not all share the same things.

One of the two scholars who did the original facsimile of the Findern teaches at Cambridge. He's been kind enough to say he'll meet with me tomorrow. I've been writing down questions to ask him about the Findern. I'm hoping that more will occur to me as we're actually speaking. I'm meeting him in his college so I'll get to do a little sight seeing as I walk over.

The Edges of Cambridge

Now it's the University of Cambridge, but there are 31 separate Colleges inside it. In a lot of ways they really are separate colleges, they have their own dorms, their own undergraduate classes, etc. The entire city center is dotted with these colleges. Bits of town, in the form of shops, bakeries, banks, and pubs just kind of curl themselves around the colleges. Some of the old medieval colleges have walls with gated openings guarded/attended to by a porter. They also have their own churches. The "old" colleges have names like King's College, Queen's College, Peterhouse, Corpus Christi, Trinity, St. John's, Magdalene, etc. Then there are the "new" colleges like Darwin, Churchill, and Lucy Cavendish.

So the River Cam winds through the fens, the colleges situate themselves where they can on high ground, and the town fills in all the gaps. If this sounds beautiful to wander through— it is. If this sounds absolutely nightmarish to navigate— it is.

It will be good to see a bit more of it. So far, all I've seen are the edges of it as I whiz by in the bus.

Today's Pics

Booklets not a Book
Booklets not a Book
The rebinder in the 1970s made the top edges square with each other, leaving the bottom edge showing clearly that sections of the Findern are out of different sized papers.
Reading Room
Reading Room
One of the reading rooms. There are tables marked "No Laptops" because there are a substantial number of readers apparently who find the click, click of keyboards annoying.
Internal Square at the Library
Internal Square at the Library
The doors to this square just stand open. There is no way out, so it is essentially part of the library— a green space where one can go out to read or soak up a bit of sun.
Gates and Doorways
Gates and Doorways
In the US gates tend to just be decorative— like the Sample Gates in Bloomington. Not so in Cambridge.
Bus-eye view
Bus-eye view
So far this has been my view of Cambridge—what I see through the window of a moving bus in the morning and evening. Tomorrow I'm meeting a professor in his college though, so I'll sight see a bit as I go.
Catastrophy!!
Catastrophe!!
The zipper broke on one of my most important items— the change purse that holds all the coins!
Bicycles
Bicycles
There are bicycles everywhere. In the narrow streets of the city center, they grind traffic down to pedal speed. But they can slip through all the alleys where the cars can't go.
Black Suit
Black Suit
Well and here I am looking respectable again in my black suit.