Art. 110, Contra inimicos si quos habes: Introduction

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Art. 110, Contra inimicos si quos habes: Introduction

Abbreviations: AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; ANL: Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (R. Dean and Boulton); BL: British Library (London); Bodl.: Bodleian Library (Oxford); CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); DOML: Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library; FDT: French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages (Sinclair 1979); FDT-1French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages, . . . First Supplement (Sinclair 1982); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MWME: A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs et al.); NIMEV: A New Index of Middle English Verse (Boffey and Edwards); NLS: National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

This Latin item is the second of three in MS Harley 2253 that provide instructions on how to use psalms as aids on specific occasions. It may be compared, therefore, to arts. 101 and 111, both of which are in Anglo-Norman. This anonymous work is shorter than art. 101 in that it names only ten psalms (as compared to sixteen there), but it generally provides fuller instructions. Significantly, its author wants to convey the practical wisdom that when psalms are given material written form (not just recited), they hold charm-like potency. The instructor expects literacy and scribal competency to be skills embodied by the practitioner. In six instances, the user is told to write down the psalm on a scrap of paper and then, so as to obtain the desired result, tie that scrap to one’s own arm, or tie it to a whining child’s arm, or throw it into a fire, or use it with a censer. On the use of texts (and sometimes psalms) as amulets, see Skemer, esp. p. 86.

The latinity of these phylacteric instructions, along with their specific recipes for action, suggests practical use by someone who can read and write, probably, that is, by a person of formal religious training who prescribes them to others and conducts the rituals. A good deal of the material (recipes and prognostications) collected by the Ludlow scribe in London, BL MSS Harley 273 and Royal 12.C.12 exhibits comparable interests (see, for example, Skemer, pp. 14 n. 34, 83 n. 19). The scribe’s French Psalter survives, as well, in MS Harley 273, fols. 8r–52v.

Visually, on fol. 136r, this item follows art. 109a — short, similar instructions in French — with a matched opening paraph. The scribe inserts paraphs to mark off each item on the list. Although there are two sequences (Psalms 68–70, 71–73), the psalms are not in consecutive order. The eleventh item is a hymn, Te Deum laudamus. Psalms recurring in the lists of arts. 101 and 111 are cited in the explanatory notes. The scribe’s Latin titles for individual psalms are filled out as necessary (with words in brackets) to reflect their English translations. For helpful commentary on the uses of the Book of Psalms in the Middle Ages, see Kuczynski 1995 and the essays edited by van Deusen. The translation printed here is by Jan Ziolkowski, prepared for this edition.

[Fol. 136r–v. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 15. Layout: No columns, written as prose. Editions: None. Other MSS: None. Translations: None.]

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