We’re all familiar with that most popular of New Year’s resolutions – and the one that is broken most frequently afterwards. While many oversized medieval books look like they enjoyed life to the max, this post is devoted to a relatively rare kind of manuscript that is much slimmer than what you would expect (Fig. 1). “Expect”, because the relative proportions of manuscripts – the width in relation to the height – form a surprisingly stable feature in medieval book production. In fact, the vast majority of surviving manuscripts have the same relative proportions as our modern paper: their width is around 70% of their height.
Fig. 1 – British Library, Harley MS 5431, 230×85 mm (10th century) – Source
This stability ought to surprise you. While readers of printed books had little choice as to the physical appearance of the object they read, owners of manuscripts handled a book…
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