Description by Ruth Mullett & Nigel Palmer, with information from Eleanor Giraud, Andrew Honey, and César Merchan-Hamann (August 2017).
Fragm. I: A parchment leaf, which covers the upper board at the front of the book (c. 335 x 220 mm, including turn-ins at top and bottom) and displays no more than a shadow of what was evidently a two-column Latin text in black ink (written area c. 230 x 134 mm). Feint traces of three initials in the left-hand column (probably a four-line P, five-line D, and one-line U) as well as red underlining provide evidence for the page layout, and there are traces of a five-line red initial A at the head of the page and a five-line D in the middle of the page, both positioned to the right of the left column and likely to be bleed-through from the reverse of the leaf. Hyperspectral imaging has allowed a rubric containing Ps 81,8 to be read, suggesting that the fragment might be from a breviary.
Fragm. II: A second parchment leaf, most likely deriving from the same manuscript as Fragm. I and covering the lower board at the front of the book (c. 335 x 185 mm, including turn-ins at top and bottom), totally illegible except where one tiny scrap of text is visible and three small blocks of offset indicate that the hand is a 14th-century Textualis. The leaf does not seem to have been wide enough to cover the entire lower board, being short of the outer edge by about 10 mm. This likely explains why a parchment strip with Hebrew text (Fragm. IV) was pasted, vertically, over this portion of the board. A paper cutting with printed music is pasted under the inner edge of Fragm. II, of which two small scraps are visible where the parchment is torn.
Other in situ fragments include:
Fragm. III: The music fragment, only a small part of which is visible, consists of two scraps of paper, printed with music in white mensural notation on five-line staves (one voice only, no clef or text); ex inf. Eleanor Giraud. If is probably an example of the method of printing introduced by Ottaviano Petrucci around 1501 (and current only until about 1530), and may therefore provide a terminus post quem as well as an approximate date for the binding. For Petrucci, see Boormann, Ottaviano Perucci, and GMO: Petrucci, Ottaviano (dei).
Fragm. IV: The Hebrew fragment (partly identifiable as Ps 19, 6) is a parchment strip, probably a lateral cutting from a bifolium (c. 70 x greater than 290 mm), each column of text approximately c. 100 mm wide. The space between the two columns (c.55 mm) is too broad to be commensurate with a double-column layout, or with inscription on a scroll. A small hole at the centre of the strip is most likely a sewing hole, positioned at the centrefold, and provides further evidence that the cutting derives from a codex. The text is inscribed in a well written Italian square Hebrew script (with pointing for vowels), as appropriate for a liturgical codex. The date is unknown. The writing has only been preserved on the underside of the cutting, that on the upper side being now entirely lost (as with the Latin fragments discussed above). Two blocks of offset from the underside are clearly visible and legible, and at one point preserve the text where a section c. 80 x 15 mm has been torn away and discarded. Our analysis of this fragment is particularly indebted to discussion with César Merchan-Hamann.
Fragm. V: Four cuttings from a Latin manuscript (each c.50 x 34/37 mm), pasted as transverse spine linings between the sewing stations, and covered over with now badly worn marbled paper. The fragments are only partly visible, with approximately 9 words in evidence, and the content remains unidentified. The palaeographical evidence, however, points to a 13th/14th century date (Textualis, no doubt Italian).
The outer surfaces of the upper and lower board of this early 16th-century couched laminate pulpboard binding, to an Italian incunable printed in 1487, are covered with parchment and paper, consisting of fragments from two Latin manuscripts of liturgical content, a cutting from a Hebrew manuscript of liturgical content (including a Psalm verse), and a scrap of printed music on paper. The outer manuscript surfaces have lost their text and now only glimpses remain, perhaps due to the pasting of marbled paper, now largely removed, over the top. There is no evidence that medieval manuscript material was employed in the making of the laminated pulpboard.
1. Italian Franciscans; ‘Ad vsum fratris hieronymi de bononia ordinis minoris conventualis’.
2. Wilfried Michael Voynich, London bookseller, from whom the volume was purchased by the Bodleian in 1903. For Voynich, see Bod-Inc. (2005), vol. VI, p. 2930.
Antoninus of Florence, Summa theologica, part 1. Venice: Marinus Saracenus, 1487. 134 fols. (Bod-Inc. A-347; ISTC ia00866000; GW 2194).
Boorman, Stanley. Ottaviano Petrucci: Catalogue Raisonné. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Grove Music Online, accessed August 2017.http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/public/book/omo_gmo