Descriptive Elements

Many of the labels for the descriptive elements are self-explanatory. Others may seem ambiguous or even involve unfamiliar specialized terminology. The following list outlines what is meant by these labels and the descriptive information that they are intended to contain.

Other Title(s): Refers to the various titles that might appear both within a manuscript and in standard reference works. Varying titles within the manuscript could be found in the preface, in the colophon, in quire signatures, on the spine, on the foreedge of the text block, etc.

Incipit: Refers to the opening words of the text, the choice of which may allude to the subject matter of the composition, and in Islamic manuscripts most often beginning with the بسملة, followed by the حمدلة or تسبيح. Here we are interested in transcribing the words following the بسملة.

Explicit: Refers to the final words of the composition proper. Here we are interested in transcribing these final words just before the beginning colophon. Also known as desinit.

Colophon: Refers to the final words at the end of the text, occasionally set off in form, size, script or even language from the main text. A manuscript may have no colophon or multiple colophons (e.g., one for each volume in a multi-volume work or each corresponding to one of several works appearing in a single codex). Here we are interested in noting whether a colophon is scribal or authorial and its form/shape and language, along with transcribing it.

Dedication: Refers to a statement in the manuscript regarding for whom the manuscript was composed, particularly if it was commissioned and copied for a patron. Here we are interested in the person copied for and nature of the statement.

Collation: Refers here to the establishment of the correct sequence of quires in the textblock by means of catchwords, quire signatures, and foliation. Here, most precisely expressed in a statement of collation with a description of the foliation, the quire signatures, and any catchwords.

Layout: Refers to the arrangement of various elements on the page (mise-en-page), as well as number of lines per page and the presence of rulings and/or prickings.

Support: Refers to the writing surface (namely papyrus, parchment or paper), its nature and state of preservation. Here, with much paper, we are particularly interested in whether European or non (Arab, Persian, Indian, etc.), laid or wove with characterization of the chain lines, and description of any watermarks. Obviously much of this cannot be assessed via the digitized manuscript but must be supplied through an examination of the physical codex.

Origin: Refers to where, when, and by whom the manuscript was produced. Here we are particularly interested in the copyist, date of copying, place of copying, mode of copying, and destination (if copied for someone). Date and place of composition are also relevant.

Contributor(s): Refers to those persons who have played some role in the composition of the text(s) or production of the manuscript apart from the main author, calligrapher(s), scribe(s), or former owner(s).