De concordia mensium atque elementorum (Byrhtferth's diagram)

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De concordia mensium atque elementorum (Byrhtferth's diagram)

    De concordia mensium atque elementorum (Byrhtferth’s diagram)

    • Latin
    • diagram, prose
    • Anglo-Latin texts, diagrams
    Elaborate diagram of the ‘harmony of the months and elements’, which once occupied a single page in a largely computistical manuscript compiled by Byrhtferth of Ramsey (c. 970–c. 1020). The original of this compilation is lost, but two independent ‘copies’ made in the early 12th century remain. The diagram aligns different aspects of time (solstice, equinox, months, seasons, ages of man), the zodiac and the four elements, and in this way, introduces a number of key concepts relevant to computus. In the Oxford manuscript, the diagram comes right at the end of a section (ff. 3r-7v) which contains a miscellaneous variety of short texts and visual designs related to computus, and directly precedes another section (ff. 8r-15v) containing tables and texts on computus.
    A feature of Irish interest is found in the Oxford manuscript only: in the middle of the diagram, just above the central wheel with its spokes, there is a horizontal bar of cryptic symbols, which concludes with a series of ogham characters. Their meaning is unclear, although Patrick Sims-Williams, ‘Byrhtferth’s ogam signature’ in Ysgrifau a cherddi cyflwynedig i Daniel Huws... (1994) has argued that it may be a cryptogram of Byrhtferth’s signature (transliterated as Bryht-ferð me fecit). It is also unclear whether the ogham notation was part of Byrhtferth’s original design or that it is due to later Irish influence on the Oxford manuscript or its intermediate exemplar.
    n. 2 Irish influence is also demonstrated by the list of Irish names for days of the week on f. 71v (ed. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, ‘The oldest Irish names for the days of the week?’, Ériu 32 (1981)).
    Title
    De concordia mensium atque elementorum (Byrhtferth’s diagram)
    Also referred to in English as ‘The physical and physiological fours’.
    n. 1 Charles and Dorothy Singer, 1919.
    Ascribed to
    Byrhtferth of RamseyByrhtferth of Ramsey (c. 970–c. 1020) – English monk and scholar
    See more
    It is attributed to Byrhtferth in the Oxford manuscript (Hanc figuram edidit Bryhtferð monachus).
    Manuscripts
    • Oxford, St John's College, MS 17 [c. 1110]
      f. 7v
       
      Provenance: Thorney/Ramsey. Here attributed to Byrhtferth.
    • London, British Library, MS Harleian 3667
      f. 8r
       
      Provenance: Peterborough. The manuscript belongs with a part of London, British Library, MS Cotton Tiberius C i.
    Language
    • Latin language
    Form
    diagram, prose (primary)

    Classification

    Anglo-Latin texts
     diagrams
    • Sources

    Notes

    Charles and Dorothy Singer, 1919.
    Irish influence is also demonstrated by the list of Irish names for days of the week on f. 71v (ed. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, ‘The oldest Irish names for the days of the week?’, Ériu 32 (1981)).

    Primary sources
    Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in the entry for the relevant manuscript.

    [ed.] Baker, Peter S., and Michael Lapidge, Byrhtferth’s Enchiridion, Early English Text Society 15, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
    374 (Appendix A)
    The calendar and the cloister: Oxford, St John's College MS 17, Online: McGill University Library, Digital Collections Program. URL: <http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/ms-17/>.

    Secondary sources

    Baker, Peter S., “More diagrams by Byrhtferth of Ramsey”, in: O'Brien O'Keeffe, Katherine, and Andy Orchard (eds), Latin learning and English lore: studies in Anglo-Saxon literature for Michael Lapidge, 2 vols, vol. 2, Toronto Old English Studies, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005. 53–73.

    The calendar and the cloister: Oxford, St John's College MS 17, Online: McGill University Library, Digital Collections Program. URL: <http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/ms-17/>.
    Baker, Peter S., “More diagrams by Byrhtferth of Ramsey”, in: O'Brien O'Keeffe, Katherine, and Andy Orchard (eds), Latin learning and English lore: studies in Anglo-Saxon literature for Michael Lapidge, 2 vols, vol. 2, Toronto Old English Studies, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005. 53–73.
    Baker, Peter S., and Michael Lapidge, Byrhtferth’s Enchiridion, Early English Text Society 15, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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    Dennis Groenewegen
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