London: The Bibliographical Society and The British Library, 2002.
128 pages, 244 x 160 mm; 4 colour, 80 black and white illustrations. (£12.00 to members of the Bibliographical Society).
ISBN 0 948170 12 3. £18.00.
Non-members should order from British Library Publications, Turpin Distribution Services, Blackhorse Road, Letchworth SG6 1HN.
Borders, the continuous decoration around the outside part or whole of a text page in a medieval book, were a relatively common sight and presumably a pleasure to the medieval reader. Borders served to communicate to the reader the beginning of a significant division in the text, such as a chapter, or the start of a new text in a book containing several works. Bar-like framework, trelliswork, human figures, flowers, plants, sprays, sprigs, interlaces, grotesques, and various stylized motifs were the components of English borders, which sometimes also occurred in conjunction with miniatures, historiated initials, and coats of arms. Because borders were composed of artistic images and because they appear over an extended period of time (in this case, somewhat over one hundred years), the representations changed in style, and certain motifs or renderings became identifiable with a certain shorter period. Unless signed by a scribe or containing some internal historical reference, manuscripts can otherwise be difficult to date with much precision. Borders in a dated or datable manuscript can however be used as a means of comparison with undated decoration in other books, since borders generally evolved in style and rendering more quickly than scribal hands.
The present handbook is a sourcebook and vade-mecum for comparing dated styles of borders with undated borders and for helping to estimate the period, at least to a quarter century and sometimes less, in which a late medieval English manuscript was produced and decorated. In some instances the handbook also provides a locale or probable locale in which the border originated. All things great and small, from texts to paraffs, come together to reveal the history of a medieval book.