Eadburg was here (and here and here and here...)
November 28, 2022 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Researchers at the Bodleian Library in Oxford have found the Old English female name Eadburg repeatedly scored on the surface of an 8th century Latin copy of the Acts of the Apostles. The markings include multiple complete and shortened versions of Eadburg, drawings, and an English transcription of the text. They were discovered by Jessica Hodgkinson , a PhD student at the University of Leicester, while researching her thesis on women and early medieval manuscripts. Much more information about the manuscript here and about the technology here.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure (19 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
My take on this is Eadburg wasn't the scriber but the unrequited love interest depicted in the drawing with her nope hand out. Eadburg, Eadburg, Eadburg, but she's having nothing to do with the scriber.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:57 AM on November 28, 2022 [7 favorites]


Writing Eadburg’s name on the book quietly asserted her power and high status at a time when only a few elite, highly educated women were able to write and read both Old English and Latin. “It’s a hugely significant and very powerful text – the word of God, conveyed through the apostles. And I think that might be at least part of the reason why somebody chose to write Eadburg’s name into it, so that she was close to that.”

This is a reasonable interpretation, but is it not also possible it was the work of a bored and mischievous (albeit highly educated) child? The drawing in the photo certainly looks like the same kind of crayoned graffiti I used to furtively scrawl into my Disney picture books as a three year-old.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:00 AM on November 28, 2022 [6 favorites]


This suggests it is likely to have been Eadburg herself who made the marks. “I could understand why somebody might write someone else’s name once. But I don’t know why you would write somebody else’s name so many times like that,” Hodgkinson said.

You really don't know? Have never had to spend a lot of time working on something while your heart was somewhere else? Perhaps down in the dairy with a certain pretty milkmaid?
posted by bleep at 10:46 AM on November 28, 2022 [11 favorites]


Yes, I feel like this might have been the work of a little girl who was getting a convent education or maybe had been dedicated to the abbey by her family. The drawing is what makes me think of it. It reminds me of Onfim. Hopefully no spankings resulted.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:48 AM on November 28, 2022 [1 favorite]


Writing Eadburg’s name on the book quietly asserted her power and high status at a time when only a few elite, highly educated women were able to write and read both Old English and Latin.

Did the person who wrote this jump straight from being 10 years old to retirement?

I cannot be the only person in the world who's vandalized something with somebody's name for far less significant and much baser, more self-involved reasons.
posted by mhoye at 11:12 AM on November 28, 2022 [3 favorites]


I have to admire the article's ability to avoid the obvious "doodling my crush's name in the margin" explanation. Like... okay, that's not the only possible explanation, but "doodling my crush's name in the margin" has to be a near-universal experience among literate people with crushes? Or is the assumption that nobody would ever doodle on an Important Book without an Important Reason?
posted by BungaDunga at 11:19 AM on November 28, 2022 [6 favorites]


I could understand why somebody might write someone else’s name once. But I don’t know why you would write somebody else’s name so many times like that

Ah, academics: When will you ever know true love?
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:24 AM on November 28, 2022 [10 favorites]


Reading the article I just got more and more surprised at their confusion about the reason. A solid grounding in archaeology is so important, and not just for archeologists. Clearly it was a fertility ritual.
posted by trig at 11:29 AM on November 28, 2022 [21 favorites]


Ah, academics: When will you ever know true love?

They're just reflecting on the importance of self-citation in academia.
posted by pwnguin at 12:16 PM on November 28, 2022 [5 favorites]


The drawings were not good. Like a little kid did them. The method hid them all these years. I think very young guy with a big crush is a distinct possibility.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:59 PM on November 28, 2022


“I could understand why somebody might write someone else’s name once. But I don’t know why you would write somebody else’s name so many times like that,” Hodgkinson said.

I feel like this is saying more about the researcher's adolescence than about Eadburg.
posted by betweenthebars at 2:01 PM on November 28, 2022 [1 favorite]


This also feels very Ramona Quimby -like. Won’t let me look at your book? Well it’s my book now.
QQQQQQQQQQ but Q=Eadburg
posted by Mchelly at 2:11 PM on November 28, 2022 [1 favorite]


How long would it take to hand write the volume? They mentioned 15 full or partial occurrences of the name and the book having at least 70 pages... Just curious about the frequency of occurrence per day of writing.
posted by Jacen at 3:47 PM on November 28, 2022


I feel kind of sad dismissing out of hand that a woman wrote her own name there. Why not?

Such a beautiful secret, your name, your power.

More than is allowed of you, to speak yourself.
posted by tiny frying pan at 4:45 PM on November 28, 2022 [9 favorites]


Who’s to say that it was a young man writing the name of his crush?
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:55 PM on November 28, 2022


Proposal that everyone should provide a different fan fiction.
posted by bleep at 6:29 PM on November 28, 2022 [9 favorites]


Reminds me of when one of my sisters carved half of her name into the hood of the beater car that sat in our driveway, then she scratched that out and spelled her other sister's name out in full.
posted by fleacircus at 10:28 PM on November 28, 2022 [6 favorites]


The variations especially have a strong vibe of "working out your official signature". And with the markings as minute as they are, I wouldn't count them as vandalism. More like doodling in the margins in a way that didn't really hurt the book. Reading/writing lessons possibly?
posted by I claim sanctuary at 3:51 AM on November 29, 2022


My guess is that Eadburg's mother said to her, "Seven years old, PAST time you learned to write your name properly. Look, we can't spare the parchment, but here's a stylus to practice with on this wax tablet. See, I wrote it down for you. Just copy these letters. E A D..."

And Eadburg dutifully practiced on the wax tablet, and then when the tablet got too scratched up and needed to be warmed up to smooth it out again, she tried practicing with the stylus on the work room table, her own forearm (for only two seconds because it stung), and on the parchment that was piled on the workroom table where Mother was updating an inventory in careful letters, "... a longe gowne of grene linen and a long gowne of tawny; both gownes lined with blac Holand clothe interlined with busk..." while also looking up from time to time to remind Eadburg that if she could sit still in chapel she could certainly stop wriggling and sighing, and instead patiently practice writing, on a rainy day when it was "too mudde to goe out and playe aneway."

It wasn't that Mother was short of parchment. She had a whole press full, what with all the male calves they killed at birth to get the rumens for cheese making. But parchment was still much too expensive for someone who could only draw as well as Eadburg to write on. You didn't waste actual parchment and ink on someone who couldn't letter neatly already. Seven year old Eadburg was nowhere near ready for parchment - she hadn't even been started on using a quill with water on a wooden board, because she hadn't yet mastered the full set of her letters.

In fact when Mother died seventeen years later, Eadburg (by then married and the hopeful mother of a two year old) and her siblings (three surviving brothers, one sister) had another inventory drawn up, and anything they didn't want to keep was sold. The parchment went to the Abbess of Saint Hildelith's for use in the scriptorium, where the monks scraped the old inventories off some of it and reused that for their own accounts, and the better stuff that hadn't been used yet got selected to be turned into books.

And half a century later there was an oblate at Saint Hildelith's who had already learned her letters but was still working labouriously on her Latin, ("Abbatissa Effa est porca foetida") and was inspired to make a cheat sheet, right in the book itself by inscribing on the page invisibly an English language transcription, also with a stylus, after she noticed that when turned at a certain angle to the light you could see some funny old fashioned name from the previous century.
posted by Jane the Brown at 11:21 AM on November 29, 2022 [10 favorites]


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