Decorated Initials in Pearl (BL, Cotton Nero A.x)

I’ve been working on my Kalamazoo-ICMS paper on Pearl and Holy Name devotion. Part of my discussion has involved the decorated capital at the top of fol 49r (line 721; opening of Section XIII), where the name Jesus–Ihs in the manuscript–replaces the refrain word from Section XII, Ryght. My interest in the Ihs in Section XIII led me to look for scholarly treatments of the decorated capitals in Pearl (and the Cotton Nero MS more generally), of which there are few. The best treatment that I have come across is A.S.G. Edwards’ essay in the Companion, which deals with the capitals in about a page. Thanks to the University of Calgary’s wonderful Cotton Nero A.x Project , anyone can explore this small-but-so-important and fascinating manuscript at their leisure (or under deadline duress), but I have compiled my own notes and observations about each of the decorated capitals–21 in all–for you here.

Each entry includes a link to the folio on which the capital appears. I’ve tried to be systematic and consistent throughout, but I also confess this started as a haphazard collection of jotted notes. This document is a work-in-progess, so please let me know if you spot any errors or have further insights to add. Comment below or email me at bsw [dot] barootes [at] utoronto [dot] ca.

The materiality of the Cotton Nero manuscript, too often passed off as nothing to write home (or on the internet, or in the journals) about, is worth exploring further. Often laughed off for its seeming shoddiness–one early commentator shat on the illustrations’ coarse execution while many other critics point to the 400-odd scribal errors–its contents, quality (or qualities), and size–it’s the same size as the postcard my sister sent from Portugal, the same size as the framed picture of your kids on your desk–speak to an interest in reading and rereading, an interest in frequently engaging with important topics that have local and universal resonances.

2 thoughts on “Decorated Initials in Pearl (BL, Cotton Nero A.x)

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