collectarium_01 verso_02 recto.jpg

Collectarium: 1v 2r


Abbreviations have both practical and design implications in the composition of the manuscript page. The practice of condensing the writing of oft-used words and phrases, or common combinations of letters within words, allows the scribes to save both time and material resources. It also gives them a greater measure of aesthetic control over the visual arrangement of the page.

Of course, abbreviations made sense to the intended reader in that they followed conventions that were well understood at the time of the production of the manuscript in the context of its intended use. The would-be modern reader must become familiar with the practices of that time. A paleographer is such a knowledgeable reader who can help us understand the text and the layout of the page.

In our example, we can see:

- The reader is almost always alerted to the presence of an abbreviation by marks in superscript above or at the end of the word that is abbreviated. For instance,  in the rubricated line 2 of 1v., such marks are seen in all three of the abbreviated words: "dominica,” “tertiam,” and “Capitulum.”

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1v. detail of abbreviation lines 1-2.
Dmica tertia. Ad. iij. Caplin.
(Dominica tertia. Ad tertiam. Capitulum.)

In another instance on the same page, the scribe chose to abbreviate same words differently or not at all.  Compare the same rubricated text 1v 2, “Dominica tertia. Ad tertiam. Capitulum” with the rubricated text below on the same page, lines 11-12, “Dominica quarta. Ad tertiam. Capitulum”. In both instances, the same short form is used for “Dominica”, but “tertia” is written out fully in line 1 while “quarta” is indicated by its numeral “iiij” in the next entry in line 11; and whereas “tertiam” is indicated by the numeral “iij” at the top of the page,it is written out in full in line 11. Also, “Capitulum “is abbreviated in a shorter version in line 12 than in line 2. Such choices are available to the scribe to fit the text into the available space while keeping the overall structure of the manuscript page clear. Possibly consider other combinations of abbreviations that could have been used for the same words in the same space.

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1v. detail of abbreviations. lines 11-12
Dnica. iiij. Ad tertiam. Capl'm.
(Dominica quarta. Ad tertiam. Capitulum)


Types of Abbreviations


Abbreviations are often divided into three types:suspensions,contractions,and symbols.




where letters are omitted at the end of the word.  Suspensions are used extensively in this manuscript, as in the last three words of 1v1 mereamur, per eundem  (the underlining indicates the omitted letters).

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1v. detail of abbreviations lines 1-2
meream.p eu.
(mereamur, per eundem)




where letters are omitted from within the word, sometimes giving only the first and last letters of a word, as in 1v8 quesumus domine.

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Collectarium: 1v. detail of abbreviation line 8 qs dne (quesumus domine)


Nomina sacra


(= sacred name) refers to a special type of contraction involving the name of a deity. According to Ludwig Traube, the abbreviations of these holy names is out of reverence; the belief that the name of God should not be expressed in common writing but rather in a symbolic way. The abbreviation of Christ in 1v4 and 2r3 is typically rendered as xpi, based on the Greek letters chi (x)and rho(p).*

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1v. detail of abbreviation. line 4
xpi (chi [x] rho [p])

Other abbreviations in the form of symbols are not much used in this manuscript.
*Ludwig Traube, Nomina Sacra (Munich, 1907)
Other sources used: Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham, Introduction to manuscript studies, Cornell U. P., 2007