Scholars regularly collected all kinds of information in the margins and between the lines of texts. Frequently they drew on other authorities as sources of information. Old and new information was continually being assembled, reworked, reused and synthesised. Scholars, moreover, not only assembled information, but also collated, paraphrased, condensed, and cross-referenced sources.
Here the beginning of Virgil’s work known as the Eclogues is surrounded by all kinds of comments. Commentators used all available space to write their notes. These notes are known as glosses and are written in the margins and between the lines of the main text.
Here we see striking images depicting the battle between various virtues and vices. The text is Prudentius’s Psychomachia (“Soul Battle”) dated to the early fifth century. It had a profound influence through the Middle Ages into the early modern era. It is accompanied by glosses in Latin and Old High German. The Old High German glosses sometimes appear in secret script (the vowels are replaced by consonants).
Scholars sometimes produced works in different languages. For example, they produced Psalters, that is volumes containing the Book of Psalms, in Greek and Latin.
THE PLANNED PAGE
In the early medieval period we witness a new development in the organisation of knowledge. Editions were produced that comprise a principal text accompanied by commentary in the margins. In these editions the glosses are a planned component of the page.
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