Son of Medieval scribes’ complaints

Emboldened by the popularity of my earlier post on medieval scribes , herein the next installment. As if the title of the post isn’t a dead giveaway.  It’s a deeply learned allusion to a favorite genre of literature and very bad movies from the 30s and 40s: Son of Tarzan, Son of Dracula, Son of Tarzan, Son of Godzilla. Just to name a few. As for the appearance of “son”, see my pedantic note infra.

So let’s get started. As before, I’m only giving ones originally in Latin. All translations are my own.

“I, Statilius Maximus, have for the second time revised the text according to Tiro, Laecanianus, Domitius and three others.”
Statili(us) / maximus rursum em(en)daui ad tyrone(m) et laecanianu(m) et dom̅ & alios ueteres. III

So where’s the complaint? There isn’t. This is an example of a very early colophon (2nd century AD), which got into the manuscript and is preserved in a 15th century copy. Transcribers and editors in antiquity did this regularly.

“Three fingers write, two eyes see, one tongue speaks, the whole body suffers.”
tres digiti scribunt duo oculi uident una lingua loquitur totum corpus laborat.

The lad obviously wasn’t having a good time. The “three fingers” refers to how the pen was held…believe it or not, there’s a whole subarea in colophon studies devoted to scribal evidence for their writing tools.

“Alas, I finished badly because I didn’t know how to write well.”
Heu male finivi quia scribere non bene scivi

Hey pally, you’re in the wrong line of work. Definitely consider quitting your day job. You could get a topflight job as a pastry chef.

“Every scribe who writes has fun, for writing scribes are happy ones.”
Quicunque scriptor scribit / Leti ut scribunt scribae

Now here’s a scribe who wasn’t into bitching and moaning.

“May an evil plague torment him who shall have left you [the book] open.”
Mala pestis torqueat ipsum / Qui te dimiserit apertum

A bit testy today, aren’t we? Your three fingers bothering you?  Here’s a finger for you [SPFestus makes a crude gesture]

“Let the scribe be paid a cow and a pretty girl.”
Scriptoris dona sit bos et pulchra puella. 

Not all the scribes were monks, even though medieval monks could play loose with their three vows. The combination of a cow and a girl…I’d rather not speculate. But then there’s another who wants a whale and a pretty girl. On that, I’d rather not even think.

[Pedantic note.  As promised in the opening paragraph. A lynx-eyed hyper-PC person may mutter “why not “Daughter of medieval scribes’ complaints”? I quote a famous Vulcan science officer, “I do not create the myths, Captain; I merely report them.” Recall supra that it’s a riff on B-grade whazzits from the 30s and 40s. Blatant sexism was everywhere. “Son” is what the genre used. So don’t go getting all pissy and hissy  about sexism and SPFestus. He’s an old-fashioned 60s liberal, and what’s called “liberal” today looks to him like center-right back then. I’d love to put a medieval curse on you, but I’ve got more posts to right.]

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