Medieval student report

Extract from a manuscript of Marculf’s Formulary

Here’s a small gem for you. When I was getting feedback on the Leeds paper before going up, Dr Alice Rio kindly sent me her opinions on the way I was using formulae. This was very welcome, but still more so was the coda to the e-mail, which she has given me permission to quote here:

By the way, do you know this weird text copied along with Marculf in all main mss. (perhaps an early example of how to write a student report)?

  • Item alio dicto ad juvenis nescientes scripturas. Miro prosortam prolixa tempora aut nullum me sermone pagene consecutum, cuius eloquia vestri, velut ad verbo dictancium, polluti mutuati ceras afferunt, currunt articuli falsitatis; sed ubi venitur ad revolvendum, delisse magis quam scripsisse pro solicissimum referit; quando sperabam capitula epistolae finisse, nec inciperat in primo.

My iffy translation:

  • ‘Another text, addressed to young men who do not know how to write. I wonder that, after such a long time, my speech has in no way been followed on the page, and the borrowed writing tablets which you bring back soiled with your text, as if from dictation, are filled with the wrong words; and when it comes to handing them over, he brings them back having erased more than he has written down on account of [his] solecisms. When I was expecting him to have finished the sections of the document, he had not even begun.’

Obviously something it would be handy to have around for copying out onto student exercises! These days we might just get a fairly big rubber stamp made up I suppose. It’s tempting. I wonder how much that would cost? But anyway, hurrah for medieval irony! Remind me to tell you (or remind you of) the one with Charles the Bald and John the Scot when things get dull round here…

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