The nominating period for the 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield (Illinois) is now open. The nominating period is short. Nominations must be in the office of the diocese by April 12. All of the nomination forms and other documents can be found on the diocese’s website (here). We need a good slate of nominees so please spread the news.
There has been a buzz this week among medievalists over the fate of paleography, the study of ancient writing and book production, in the current cost cutting atmosphere. Kings College in London is threatening to end its paleography program including its endowed chair. This has lead to an uproar among medievalists all over the world. Kings College had the only known endowed chair in paleography in the world. By what odd logic leads universities to get rid of what makes them unique? Shouldn’t they be highlighting their uniqueness? Besides, how can you cut a endowed chair for financial reasons — its endowed. Someone else is paying his salary. I know some endowments don’t stipulate the field of the chair but really, endowments should be there to cover fields that may need economic support. Popular fields with lots of students don’t need their professors to be endowed. There is plenty of tuition and per-student government support to cover their faculty and staff.
Paleography has to be nurtured.It takes decades of study to be able to interpret and date ancient handwriting, to learn how to preserve ancient books and know how a book was assembled after it has been disassembled. They must understand earlier forms of many languages: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Old English, Old French, forms of Old German, etc. Paleographers in Britain would need to be able to recognize Latin, Old English, Middle English, early modern English, Old Welsh, Middle Welsh, Scots, Gaelic, and probably Old Irish. Not only must they understand old languages but also old forms of writing. They also have to understand how books are assembled in all ages (before and after the printing press). It is both art and science.
Paleography has obvious implications for the study of prayerbooks and theology. Most obviously it is necessary to unravel books found anywhere from bogs in Ireland to caves in Israel or Egypt. While we all love beautiful books like the Jewish manuscript above, most books look like the magnified image where an illuminated initial is probably the only consistent decoration. Interpreting handwriting is the main thrust of paleography.
As digital books become more popular, how will society’s valuation of non-digital books change? As each generation becomes less familiar with books on paper (as they probably will 2-3 generations from now), paleography will be dealing with a world all the more foreign to contemporaries. On the one hand, there should be more respect for the specialty. However, as the proposed cutbacks in paleography today show, the more obscure the specialty is to those who value economics over all else, the more likely that funding will be cut and eventually the skill will be lost.
Once the transition to mostly digital books occurs, how will we all look at book organization differently? A book is the content within an object, between two covers. In early medieval books, there might be some widely differing content in one book. On the other hand because of the practicalities of book production, the entire bible was not contained in a single book (as anything other than a huge reference tome) until very late in the medieval period. So until the late medieval period most people knew the books of the bible literally as separate books that circulated separately. It could take an entire shelf of a bookcase or more to house the books of the bible. The printing press changed our perception of books. They now contain more content, are less unique, and are cheap enough for mass production, for the masses to own them and to be produced in a wide variety of sizes etc. Miscellanies are less common unless they are planned to be that way (an anthology etc). In the digital world, a book is a bundle of data that is hyperlinked as a package. Content does not necessarily flow linearly. With the iBCP there are already calls for it to be integrated with a bible so that all the readings automatically are linked or plugged into the BCP. In effect this would blend the BCP and the bible into one book. Since the BCP is the order and organization of liturgy, the bible would be reduced to reference snippets. How long before the organization of the bible ceases to mean much to the average user? How will the children of 2050 view “books”? And won’t we need digital paleographers to sort out this new mess we are creating?
Today I downloaded a new app on my phone, the iBCP and my head has been spinning with possibilities ever since. The iBCP is the 1979 Book of Common Prayer on my phone, the whole thing. The designer Alexander Orozco stresses that this version does not have the official seal of approval of the Custodian of the Standard Book of Common Prayer, and is based on a private transcription of a public domain copy. (I thought all copies were in the public domain?) Its the most expensive ap I’ve ever bought but for $5 I’ll have the BCP on me at virtually all times. All aps I have so far update for free so it will only get better from here!
It seems easy to use. The font is clear and large enough to read easily. The graphic here is uploaded full size. The only place I have found so far where I question the font size is in the psalms. The first half of the verse is regular size but the second half is quite small. Its readable, but it could be hard on the eyes over a long read. It is designed basically like a highly hyperlinked web site with a highly detailed table of contents. The table of contents replicates that in the BCP plus collections of hyperlinks on psalms, prefaces, confessions, collects etc. at the bottom of the page. For example, you can find a link directly to each of the psalms through the hyperlink collection on psalms. All references within the BCP to other areas are also linked. The one disappointment is that it doesn’t have a search engine. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized how difficult it would be to find unique search words that would pull up a reasonably good search. The extensive hyperlinked table of contents seems like the right way to go.
Most comments I’ve seen on the iBCP refer to it as a beginning and it is a good beginning. The possibilities for bringing church resources to smart phones and perhaps tablet computers are mind boggling. I’ll save conjecture in that realm for another day.
After reading a few reviews from priests saying how indispensable the app is and how much they use it in practical ministry, I couldn’t help imagining all afternoon various times when a priest pulls out his phone for some quick liturgy — my favorite being a dignified grave-side funeral with the priest reading from his iPhone.
Derek the Ænglican over at Haligweorc released his St Bede’s Breviary on Monday. His project is a tour-de-force in both liturgy and computer design. Derek has produced a new Daily Office site that can be customized for Rite I/Rite II, six different prayerbook styles, and three different sactorales (church calendars). Once this is project is finished it will be a great gift to the church.
The appearance is fairly stark but this makes it usable by smaller devices. I’ve tried it out on my iPhone and it is manageable. I’ve read others say that it looks good on blackberries.
Check it out here: http://www.haligweorc.org/breviary/
New Blue book on the proposed revised calendar for the Episcopal Church is out to be approved at this summer’s general convention. There are a large number of changes and many additions.
One of the changes combines the feast day for Bishops Aidan and Cuthbert of Lindisfarne on August 31st (Aidan’s feast day). We have been saying for years that Cuthbert is the politically correct version of Aidan and now they will share a feast day. On top of that, they share Aidan’s feast day. I think that is appropriate given that Aidan is the founder of Lindisfarne and is probably more popular among the neo-Celtic movement, but I’m sure in terms of historic popularity, Cuthbert was more popular. Having the feast in August will remove it from the complication of possibly falling in Lent. It will also move Cuthbert from the shadow of St Patrick a couple days earlier. Overall, I can’t say that I mind too much, but it does decrease the number of early medieval and Anglo-Saxons feasts. This is more relevant because they are proposing to add so many post-Reformation people.
New proposed collect:
Everliving God, you called your servants Aidan and Cuthbert to proclaim the Gospel in northern England and gave them loving hearts and gentle spirits: Grant us grace to live as they did, in simplicity, humility and love for the poor; through Jesus Christ, who came among us as one who serves, and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.