Oh, My Hand: Complaints Medieval Monks Scribbled in the Margins of Illuminated Manuscripts
By Maria Popova
“When one does not complain,” Charlotte Brontë lamented in her beautiful and heartbreaking love letters, “one pays for outward calm with an almost unbearable inner struggle.”
The history of bookmaking hasn’t been without its challenges, but never was its craft as painstaking as during the era of illuminated manuscripts. Joining the ranks of history’s most appalling and amusing complaints, like this Victorian list of don’ts for female cyclists or young Isaac Newton’s self-professed sins, is an absolute treat for lovers of marginalia such as myself — a collection of complaints monks scribbled in the pages of illuminated manuscripts.
Writing is excessive drudgery. It crooks your back, it dims your sight, it twists your stomach and your sides.
As the harbor is welcome to the sailor, so is the last line to the scribe.
This is sad! O little book! A day will come in truth when someone over your page will say, ‘The hand that wrote it is no more.’
This gem comes from the Spring 2012 issue of Lapham’s Quarterly, entitled Means of Communication, which previously delighted us with the first usages of famous words and to which you can and should subscribe immediately.
Published March 21, 2012