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All Limp at St. John's All Day Long

Walked over to see St. John's College MS AS.54 this morning. There's a lot going on because it's graduation here, so the librarian said I could see it if I would come promptly when the library opened at 9 and leave by 10 a.m. I did so. The modern library is tucked inside on the backside of the chapel court (go through first court and then second court, hang a right into chapel court). A bit startling to see a modern brick building hidden in the back— but undoubtably it's better for the books.

The manuscript is a little book of carols from the 15th c. bound in a limp leather wrapper. It's just the words to the song, but it's little and portable, and carols were really popular at the time, so perhaps it was something to whip out and sing your love a song from. The first couple of pages in it are darker than the rest. I suspect the paper has leached oil/tanning agents/something out of the vellum, where it is touching it. Wanted to take a look because several pages in the Findern are dark, oily looking, and a bit shiny. Might be dirt from being left unbound, but I think it might also be from some of the booklets being kept for part of their lives in some kind of limp leather wrapper. I'm still chewing on what I think of this. There are just some oddities about what parts of a page are clean and what are dirty in the Findern.

Limp Cindy

So walking around Cambridge in the rain is just not that much fun. I took my camera to Erin at Sidney Sussex and then attempted to find the big library. I was wearing a suit under the rubber poncho, packing a lot of weight, couldn't get my iPhone map app out because it was raining, tourists who weren't used to how tiny the sidewalks are kept whacking me with their umbrellas, I got lost, got hot, and felt very wilted by the time I found University Library. I have no words to say how grateful I was to settle into the Tea Room.

Spent the rest of the day taking a last look at the Findern, and then looking at Henry Bradshaw's papers. He's the librarian who made little pencil notes all over the Findern in the 1860s or 1870s. He's the one who numbered the pages and made the first guesses as to what was in it. I wanted to find his notes on my manuscript, but alas, his notebooks aren't really indexed. So I would look at one, take it back to the desk, get the next one, take it back, etc. No dice. But I did find a list of everything he owned (was he renting his place and needed a list? moving?) and I can tell you that around that time he spent £1.50 on breakfast. (That's $2.25 to you and me.)

Dinner at The Eagle, the DNA Pub

We had dinner at The Eagle, originally the Eagle and Child (1667), a pub owned by Corpus Christi College. Now Lewis and Tolkien fans' ears are pricking up thinking, "Hey that's the pub where the Inklings met." No, no, no. That's the OTHER Eagle and Child pub, at the OTHER really old University in England— Oxford. So this pub, The Eagle in Cambridge, is famous to a different group of people. It's called the DNA pub because it's where Francis Crick and James Watson and the other people from their lab used to go for lunch, and where the two of them interupted everyone's lunch in 1953 to say that they'd discovered "the secret of life"— DNA.

Over dinner, Erin told me she will miss listening to the librarian explaining how to use a DVR to his mother on the phone, and talking to his daughter making plans to see her. She showed me pictures later of what tidy handwriting her manuscript has. I'd be jealous, but at least my 15th century Derbyshire Peeps were writing in English rather than Latin— despite how bad their writing is sometimes.

Evensong

So we ended up at St. John's for evensong tonight by virtue that they hold theirs at 6:30 and that let us finish up at our libraries and eat first. The building is part 13th century with a 16th century face lift, and part 19th century addition. Like most churches that are living, the building morphs to fit the needs of the people. The choir was, of course, stunning. We probably caught the end of the spring evensongs as the students are packing to leave this weekend. Once again I was struck by how much clearer chanted words are in such a space, than words that are spoken. Also impressive how a single voice fills such a large space.

The "chapel" is church-sized, but it is only a choir, there is no spot for a congregation. Perhaps that's what makes it a student chapel, not a parish church. The old testament reading tonight was the tale end of the story of Ruth, which is one of my favorites (well, and everyone in the Middle Age's favorite as well), but it looses something when you don't get to hear the good bits about Naomi and Ruth at the beginning. The service was very, very Rite I— by which I mean, it was from the last century or before. Much more sin and repentence than I'm accustomed to, though the priest at the end tried to soften it up. I suppose I can see how, in a place with so much weight of tradition, they would continue using older liturgy. Amusingly, almost all the music was modern— though the minor chords that the great organ and full choir were singing were impressively eerie in the echoey vaulted ceiling. It certainly made the "happy ending" sound of the resolution to consonant major chords all the more welcome.

Pics and Tidbits of the Day:

Off to the libraries
Off to the libraries
We got up and around early to make sure we got to our respective libraries on time. (Random medieval round church behind us.)
Timber Frame House/Store
Timber Frame House/Store
I love old timber frame houses that stick out over the road this way. The second floor is bigger than the first, and the third is bigger yet again.
St. John's again
St. John's again
Once again going into St. John's, this time for the library.
St. John's College Garden
St. John's College Garden
This is behind their courts. All the colleges on this street have huge "backyards" behind them. You wouldn't know they were there though unless you somehow got through the multiple gates.
Passageway to the Library
Passageway to the Library
Chapel view from inside the college
Chapel view from inside the college
This is the "chapel" court.
Swivel door
Swivel door
The library is a modern building, but it has this kind of nuevo-medieval door that spins. You push on the left and it opens on that side by spinning on a central axis.
The little carol book
The little carol book
This is my drawing of the way the little limp leather binding was constructed. Scrap leather-- you could see the edges of the hide on the "wrapper" part, but they just folded most of the edges over to make them straight, tacked the pages in with basting, and wrapped it up.
Last Day with the Findern
Last Day with the Findern
I went back over the notes I'd made the first day, since, well, I know more now. And then leafed through the notebooks of a scholar who worked on the Findern in the 1860s or 1870s.
Punts Don't Stop for Rain
Punts Don't Stop for Rain
Look at the bigger view and you can see that the guides have just loaded up the tourists in their punts with umbrellas and were still poling up and down the Cam.
Kings College Main Gate
Kings College Main Gate
Okay, well, it is King's College. I suppose it has to be bigger and grander. But it made me chuckle a bit. It's really grand and it goes on and on for a block.
Graduation
Graduation
These are people lining up for King's College graduation ceremony. We ran into an array of splendid robes today.
The Eagle Pub
The Eagle Pub
Nicknamed the DNA pub.
Dinner at the Eagle
Dinner at the Eagle
We ordered lamb shank and spotted sausage and then shared. (The house ale is "The Eagle DNA")
Evensong at St. John's Chapel
Evensong at St. John's Chapel
Beautiful choir in a chapel that is all choir. The side wings that would normally be on a church are not there. This is just for the students I suppose, but they allow visitors in for the services.