Thursday, 14 August 2014


I'm currently preparing for a long-ish research trip to the archives in Dubrovnik in September.  I'm extremely excited!  I shall be looking for evidence of medieval slavery, on which more soon...

photo taken at the Dubrovnik archives by @EmirOFilopovic, copied from

I've never visited these archives before, so I was looking online to find some examples of the kind of script to expect and to practice my paleaographical skills before leaving Oxford.  I came across this famous document from fifteenth-century Dubrovnik:

This is a paleaography tutorial from the ENS in Lyon, so you might have fun deciphering it.  But it's famous for the cat paw-prints which make their way cheekily across the parchment:

There's a wonderful blog-post about this here:

I particularly love the story of the cat urinating on a manuscript...  I remember when I was 11, and had just started at a new school, my tabby cat, Pansy, climbed into my school bag, and urinated all over my school books - I think she was trying to tell me something about the quality of my work.  Admitting to what had happened, and attempting to cover the smell with lots and lots of room-spray was pretty humiliating!   It's somehow reassuring all these years later to find that a fifteenth-century scribe had the same problem: 

'Confundatur pessimus cattus qui minxit super librum istum': 'Cursed be the wicked cat that urinated over this book' writes the scribe from Deventer.

And the moral?: 'Et cavendum valde ne permittantur libri aperti per noctem ubi cattie venire possunt': 'take care not to leave open books at night where cats can come'.

(Translations adapted by those by Thijs Porck)

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