4406 entries. 94 themes. Last updated December 26, 2016.

1000 to 1100 Timeline


Beowulf: Known from a Unique Medieval Manuscript Circa 1000

The first page of the Beowulf manuscript. (View Larger)

Beowulf, a traditional heroic epic poem written in Old English alliterative verse, and representing with its 3,182 lines 10% of all surviving Old English poetry, is known from one medieval manuscript that dates from between the 8th and the 11th century, perhaps in the first decade after 1000. The manuscript, known as the Nowell Codex or Cotton Vitellius A. xv, is preserved in the British Library.

The volume as it was bound in the 17th century contains two manuscripts: a 12th century manuscript that contains four prose works, and the Nowell codex, named after the q6th century English antiquarian, cartographer, and scholar of Anglo-Saxon language and literature Laurence Nowell, whose name is inscribed on its first page, and who owned the manuscript in the mid-16th century. It was then acquired by Sir Robert Cotton, who placed it in his library as the 15th manuscript on the first shelf of the bookcase that was headed by a bust of Vitellius.

"The unique copy of Beowulf is preserved in the Cottonian collection of manuscripts that suffered from a great fire in 1731. It remained in its burnt binding until the middle of the nineteenth century, when Sir Frederic Madden, Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Museum, undertook to restore these damaged manuscripts in his care. His bookbinder first traced the outline of each burnt leaf, cut out the center of the tracing except for a retaining edge of about 2mm, and pasted and taped the vellum leaf to the paper frame. Then he rebound the framed leaves in a new cover. The method well preserved the fragile bits of text along the burnt edges of the leaves, but the retaining edges of the paper mounts, and the paste and tape used to secure the leaves to them, hide from view many hundreds of letters and bits of letters. Today they are visible only if one holds a bright light directly behind them, an ineffectual solution if one lacks the manuscript, the bright light, or the permission to use them together" (The Electronic Beowulf, 1993, accessed 06-15-2009).

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The Mathematician Pope Reintroduces the Abacus and Armillary Sphere Circa 1000

Gerbert d'Aurillac, scholar, teacher, tutor, and counsellor to Otto II and Pope Sylvester II. (View Larger)

Gerbert d'Aurillac was a scholar, teacher, tutor and counsellor to Otto III before being elevated to the papacy as Sylvester II (or Silvester II) from 999 till his death in 1002. He was influential in introducing Arabic knowledge of arithmetic, mathematics, and astronomy to Europe, reintroducing the abacus and armillary sphere which had been lost to Europe since the end of the Greco-Roman era.

"According to William of Malmesbury (c.1080 – c.1143), Gerbert stole the idea of the computing device of the abacus from a Spanish Arab. The abacus that Gerbert reintroduced into Europe had its length divided into 27 parts with 9 number symbols (this would exclude zero, which was represented by an empty column) and 1,000 characters in all, crafted out of animal horn by a shieldmaker of Rheims. According to his pupil Richer, Gerbert could perform speedy calculations with his abacus that were extremely difficult for people in his day to think through in using only Roman numerals. Due to Gerbert's reintroduction, the abacus became widely used in Europe once again during the 11th century" (Wikipedia article on Pope Sylvester II, accessed 11-24-2008).

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The Oldest Surviving Haggadah(s) Circa 1000

Folio 1 recto of Halper 211, considred to be one of the oldest surviving haggadahs. (View Larger)

 A Haggadah found in the Cairo Genizah, the storeroom of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat, Old Cairo, Egypt, "is considered the oldest surviving Haggadah" (Malachi Beit-Arie, "How Hebrew Manuscripts are Made",  Gold (ed.) A Sign and a Witness. 2000 Years of Hebrew Books and Illuminated Manuscripts [1988] 36). This Haggadah, dating to about the year 1000, is  preserved in the Annenberg Research Institute for Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (Halper 211).

However, another Haggadah from the Cairo Genizah preserved at the Jewish Theological Seminary may be from roughly the same date:

"Among the manuscript treasures housed in The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary is a rare haggadah codex, JTS MS 9560. This early manuscript is one of the few surviving examplars of the ancient Palestinian seder rite. That rite disappeared as a result of the dislocations caused by the Crusades, and it was not rediscovered until the manuscript fragments of the Cairo Genizah came to light at the end of the nineteenth century. MS 9560 was probably deposited in that genizah hundreds of years ago.

"Unlike most of the manuscript fragments found in the Cairo Genizah, this haggadah is almost complete. Based on the writing style, it can be dated to the tenth or the first half of the eleventh century. That makes it one of the earliest Hebrew manuscripts written on paper, and quite possibly the oldest surviving haggadah. With its unskilled writing style and idiosyncratic spelling and linguistic usage, the text bears witness to a layman's home ritual. Therefore, MS 9560 is significant for a number of areas of Jewish research" (http://www.jtsa.edu/Library/News_and_Publications/Between_the_Lines/BTL_121.x, accessed 12-06-2108).

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The First Conclusive Proof that Norsemen Reached North America Circa 1000

The reconstructions of three Norse buildings are the focal point of this archaeological site, the earliest known European settlement in the New World. The archaeological remains at the site were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.

Examples of objects found at L'Anse aux Meadow.

Timeline of occupation of L'Anse aux Meadows.

In 1960 Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad and his wife, archaeologist Anne Stine, discovered the remains of a Norse village in at L'Anse aux Meadows on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. This was the first conclusive proof that Greenlandic Norsemen had found a way across the Atlantic Ocean to North America, roughly 500 years before Christopher Columbus and John Cabot.

"Archaeologists determined the site is of Norse origin because of definitive similarities between the characteristics of structures and artifacts found at the site compared to sites in Greenland and Iceland from around CE 1000.

"Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Ingstad carried out seven archaeological excavations from 1961 to 1968, investigating eight complete house sites as well as the remains of a ninth.

"The L'Anse aux Meadows area was originally inhabited by Native peoples as far back as 6000BP. The area was probably sought due to its abundance of marine life and close proximity to Labrador. The most prominent of early Native inhabitants were the Dorset Eskimo; however, during the centuries of Norse exploration of the area there were thought to be no inhabitants in the immediate area" (Wikipedia article on L'Anse aux Meadows, accessed 10-24-2012).

"L'Anse aux Meadows remains the only widely accepted instance of pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact and is notable for its possible connection with the attempted colony of Vinland established by Leif Ericson around the same time period or, more broadly, with Norse exploration of the Americas. . . .The settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows has been dated to approximately 1,000 years ago, an assessment that tallies with the relative dating of artifact and structure types.The remains of eight buildings were located. They are believed to have been constructed of sod placed over a wooden frame. Based on associated artifacts, the buildings were variously identified as dwellings or workshops. The largest dwelling measured 28.8 by 15.6 m (94.5 by 51 ft) and consisted of several rooms. Workshops were identified as an iron smithy containing a forge and iron slag, a carpentry workshop, which generated wood debris, and a specialized boat repair area containing worn rivets. Besides those related to iron working, carpentry, and boat repair, other artifacts found at the site consisted of common everyday Norse items, including a stone oil lamp, a whetstone, a bronze fastening pin, a bone knitting needle, and part of a spindle. The presence of the spindle and needle suggests that women were present as well as men. Food remains included butternuts, which are significant because they do not grow naturally north of New Brunswick, and their presence probably indicates the Norse inhabitants travelled farther south to obtain them.Archaeologists concluded that the site was inhabited by the Norse for a relatively short period of time.  

"Norse sagas are written versions of older oral traditions. Two Icelandic sagas, commonly called the Saga of the Greenlanders and the Saga of Eric the Red, describe the experiences of Norse Greenlanders who discovered and attempted to settle land to the west of Greenland, identified by them as Vinland. The sagas suggest that the Vinland settlement failed because of conflicts within the Norse community, as well as between the Norse and the native people they encountered, whom they called Skrælingar.

"Recent archaeological studies suggest that the L'Anse aux Meadows site is not Vinland itself but was within a land called Vinland that spread farther south from L'Anse aux Meadows, extending to the St. Lawrence River and New Brunswick. The village at L'Anse aux Meadows served as an exploration base and winter camp for expeditions heading southward into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The settlements of Vinland mentioned in the Eric saga and the Greenlanders saga, Leifsbudir (Leif Ericson) and Hóp (Norse Greenlanders), have both been identified as the L'Anse aux Meadows site (Wikipedia article on Helge Ingstad, accessed 10-24-2012).

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The Earliest Use of Catchwords Circa 1000

"Catchwords (that is the first words of the following quire) are found at the end of quires in Western manuscripts as early as c. 1000, and they were in widespread use by the twelfth century. In the thirteenth century the practice began of numbering the individual bifolia, often with a letter of the alphabet to designate the quire and an Arabic numeral, the leaf (a1, a2, a3. . .), and the individual quires of the book were also sometimes numbered in Roman numerals, especially early in the Middle Ages, usually in the lower outer margin of the last page" (Rouse, "Authentic Witnesses: Manuscript Making and Models of Production," Rouse & Light, Manuscript Production. Primer 6, published by Les Enluminures [2014] 2-3).

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Playing Cards: One of the Earliest Forms of Block Printing 1007 – 1072

Playing cards existed in China before 1000 AD. Such cards would have been narrow slips of paper, essentially dominoes with dots imitating the twenty-one combinations possible with the throw of two dice. Paper was in fact the original material for dominoes; wood and ivory came later.

"There is little doubt that both playing cards and dominoes originated in China and that both games were influenced by certain forms of divination and the drawing of lots and possibly by paper money. There are certain indications that the development of playing cards took place at about the same time as the transition from manuscript rolls to paged books. As the advent of printing made it more convenient to produce and use books in the form of pages, so was it easier to produce cards. These 'sheet-dice,' as they were called, began to appear according to Ou-yang Hsiu (1007-72) before the end of the Tang dynasty, and if this is true, they were one of the earliest forms of block printing in China, as they were in the West" (Carter, Invention of Printing in China 2nd ed [1955] 184).

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The Oldest Surviving Illustrated Manuscript Written in Arabic 1009 – 1010

Folios 325r and 326v of MS. Marsh 144, depicting the constellation Orion. (View Larger)

According to historian Jonathan Bloom, the oldest surviving illustrated manuscript written in Arabic on any subject is a manuscript on paper of Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi's Treatise on the Fixed Stars preserved in the Bodleian Library, Oxford [Ms. Marsh 144. p. 165].

"The pictures show the configurations of the stars in the forty-eight constellations recognized by Ptolemy, but the figures are dressed in Oriental rather than classical Greek garb. Al-Sufi wrote in his text that although he knew of another illustrated astronomical treatise, he copied his illustrations directly from images engraved on a celestial globe, indicating that he was not working in a manuscript tradition. According to the eleventh-century scholar al-Biruni, al-Sufi explained that he had laid a very thin piece of paper over a celestial globe and fitted it carefully over the surface of the sphere. He then traced the outlines of the constellations and the locations of individual stars on the paper. Al-Biruni later commented that this procedure 'is an [adequate] approximation when the figures are small but it is far [from adequate] if they are large.' The Oxford manuscript of al-Sufi's text was copied from the author's original by his son" (Bloom, Paper Before Print. The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World [2001]  143-44 and figure 51).

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The Earliest Extant Complete Text of the Bible in Hebrew Circa 1010

Cover page E, folio 474a, of the Leningrad Codex. (View Larger)

The Leningrad Codex, probably written in Cairo about the year 1010, is the earliest extant complete text of the Bible in Hebrew. It has been preserved in St. Petersburg since the mid-19th century, and is now housed in the Russian National Library.

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Foundation of Experimental Physics, Optics, and the Science of Vision 1011 – 1021

A portrait of Ibn al_Haytham, once printed on the obverse side of an Iraqi 10-dinar bill.

Under house arrest in Cairo, Egypt, between 1011 and 1021, Iraqi Muslim scientist Ibn al-Haytham (Latinized as Alhacen or Alhazen) wrote The Book of Optics (Arabic: Kitab al-Manazir‎; Latin: De aspectibus or Opticae Thesaurus: Alhazeni Arabis,)  a seven-volume treatise on optics, physics, mathematics, anatomy and psychology.

"The book had an important influence on the development of optics, as it laid the foundations for modern physical optics after drastically transforming the way in which light and vision had been understood, and on science in general with its introduction of the experimental scientific method. Ibn al-Haytham has been called the "father of modern optics", the 'pioneer of the modern scientific method,' and the founder of experimental physics, and for these reasons he has been described as the 'first scientist.'

"The Book of Optics has been ranked alongside Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica as one of the most influential books in the history of physics, as it is widely considered to have initiated a revolution in the fields of optics and visual perception. It established experimentation as the norm of proof in optics, and gave optics a physico-mathematical conception at a much earlier date than the other mathematical disciplines of astronomy and mechanics.

"The Book of Optics also contains the earliest discussions and descriptions of the psychology of visual perception and optical illusions, as well as experimental psychology, and the first accurate descriptions of the camera obscura, a precursor to the modern camera. In medicine and ophthalmology, the book also made important advances in eye surgery, as it correctly explained the process of sight for the first time" (Wikipedia article on Book of Optics, accessed 04-23-2009).

Translated into Latin by an unknown scholar at the end of the 12th century or the beginning of the 13th, Alhazen's Book of Optics enjoyed great reputation and circulated by manuscript copying to the few who could understand it during the Middle Ages. It was first edited for print publication by the German mathematician Friedrich Risner and issued  as Opticae thesaurus. . . libri septem, nunc primum editi . . . item Vitellonis Thuringopoloni libri X in Basel by Episcopus in 1572.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1027.

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Construction of the First Camera Obscura 1012 – 1021

A Qatarian postage stamp portraying Ibn al-Haitham. (View Larger)  <p>Persian scientist Abu Ali Al-Hasan <a href=,

Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Haytham  (أبو علي، الحسن بن الحسن بن الهيثم‎), frequently referred to as Ibn al-Haytham (Arabic: ابن الهيثم, known in the west as Alhazen, built the first camera obscura or pinhole camera—significant in the history of optics, photography, and the history of art.

In his Book of Optics, written in Cairo between 1012 and 1021, Ibn al-Haytham used the term “Al-Bayt al-Muthlim", translated into English as "dark room."

"In the experiment he undertook, in order to establish that light travels in time and with speed, he says: 'If the hole was covered with a curtain and the curtain was taken off, the light traveling from the hole to the opposite wall will consume time.' He reiterated the same experience when he established that light travels in straight lines. A revealing experiment introduced the camera obscura in studies of the half-moon shape of the sun's image during eclipses which he observed on the wall opposite a small hole made in the window shutters. In his famous essay 'On the form of the Eclipse' (Maqalah-fi-Surat-al-Kosuf) he commented on his observation 'The image of the sun at the time of the eclipse, unless it is total, demonstrates that when its light passes through a narrow, round hole and is cast on a plane opposite to the hole it takes on the form of a moon-sickle'.

"In his experiment of the sun light he extended his observation of the penetration of light through the pinhole to conclude that when the sun light reaches and penetrates the hole it makes a conic shape at the points meeting at the pinhole, forming later another conic shape reverse to the first one on the opposite wall in the dark room. This happens when sun light diverges from point “ﺍ” until it reaches an aperture and is projected through it onto a screen at the luminous spot. Since the distance between the aperture and the screen is insignificant in comparison to the distance between the aperture and the sun, the divergence of sunlight after going through the aperture should be insignificant. In other words, should be about equal to. However, it is observed to be much greater when the paths of the rays which form the extremities of are retraced in the reverse direction, it is found that they meet at a point outside the aperture and then diverge again toward the sun as illustrated in figure 1. This an early accurate description of the Camera Obscura phenomenon."

"In 13th-century England Roger Bacon described the use of a camera obscura for the safe observation of solar eclipses. Its potential as a drawing aid may have been familiar to artists by as early as the 15th century; Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519 AD) described camera obscura in Codex Atlanticus. . . .

"The Dutch Masters, such as Johannes Vermeer, who were hired as painters in the 17th century, were known for their magnificent attention to detail. It has been widely speculated that they made use of such a camera, but the extent of their use by artists at this period remains a matter of considerable controversy, recently revived by the Hockney-Falco thesis. The term "camera obscura" was first used by the German astronomer Johannes Kepler in 1604.

"Early models were large; comprising either a whole darkened room or a tent (as employed by Johannes Kepler). By the 18th century, following developments by Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke, more easily portable models became available. These were extensively used by amateur artists while on their travels, but they were also employed by professionals, including Paul Sandby, Canaletto and Joshua Reynolds, whose camera (disguised as a book) is now in the Science Museum (London). Such cameras were later adapted by Louis Daguerre and William Fox Talbot for creating the first photographs" (Wikipedia article on Camera obscura, accessed 04-24-2009).

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The Scribe Sujātabhadra Writes Aṣṭasahāsrikā Prajñāparamitā on 222 Palm-Leaf Folios March 15, 1015

In March 1015 the scribe Sujātabhadra, working in or around Kathmandu, Nepal, wrote a manuscript in Sanskrit known as the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight-Thousand Stanzas (Skt. Aṣṭasahāsrikā Prajñāparamitā). Sujātabhadra wrote the manuscript on 222 palm-leaf folios. It is one of the earliest surviving illuminated Buddhist manuscripts. The manuscript is preserved in Cambridge University Library (MS Add. 1643), and in 2015 the library made a digital facsimile of the manuscript available at this link

"The text is lavishly illustrated by a total of 85 miniature paintings: each one is an exquisite representation of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas (beings who resolve to achieve Buddhahood in order to help other sentient beings) – including the historical Buddha Śākyamuni and Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future. The figures represented in the miniatures include also the embodied Perfection of Wisdom goddess (Prajñāparamitā) herself on the Vulture Peak Mountain near Rājagṛha, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Māgadha, in today’s Bihar state. The settings in which these deities are depicted are drawn in meticulous detail. The Bodhisattva Lokanātha, surrounded by White and Green Tārās, is shown in front of the Svayambhu stupa in Kathmandu – a shrine sacred for Nepalese and Tibetan Buddhists, damaged in the recent earthquake. The places depicted in the miniatures represent a kind of map of Buddhist lands and sacred sites, from Sri Lanka to Indonesia and from South India to China" (http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/features/the-1000-year-old-manuscript-and-the-stories-it-tells#sthash.LKfGWelI.dpuf).

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Book-Shaped Reliquary from the Circle of the Master of the Registrum Gregorii Circa 1020

The front of the book-shaped reliquary. (View Larger)

A spectacular book-shaped reliquary preserved at the Cleveland Museum of Art has been attributed to the circle of the master manuscript illuminator, known as the Master of the Registrum Gregorii, who was active at Reichenau in the late 10th century. The metalwork reliquary incorporates an ivory plaque set within a frame of gilt silver, gems, and pearls on a core of wood. It measures 31.6cm x 24.4cm x 7.5cm. In February 2014 images were available from the Cleveland Museum of Art website at this link.

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Production of Medieval Arabic Manuscripts Circa 1025

About 1025 royal patron of the arts, Tamin ibn al Mu'izz ibn Badis, the fourth ruler of the Zirids in Ifriqiya, North Africa, wrote the 'Umbdat alk-kuttab wa 'uddat dhawi al-albab (Book of the Staff of the Scribes and Implements of the Discerning with a Description of the Line, the Pens, Soot Inks, Liq, Gall Inks, Dyeing, and Details of Bookbinding).

This Arabic manuscript, partly written by Ibn Badis, and preserved in Cairo, is a the primary source for information on writing, illuminating, and binding Arabic manuscripts of this period, as well as a resource on the history of chemistry. The portion of the manuscript describing bookbinding is incomplete, lacking details on the techniques of decoration.

The text was translated by Martin Levey as "Mediaeval Arabic Bookmaking and its Relation to Early Chemistry and Pharmacology" and published in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, new series, Vol. 52 (1962) 5-79. Because of the incompleteness of the bookbinding section of ibn Badis's manuscript Levey added an appendix to this work, containing his translation of Abu'l-Abbas Ahmed ibn Muhammed al Sufyani's Sinaat tasfir alkutub wa-hill aldhahab (Art of Bookbinding and Gilding) written in 1619.

Pollard, Early Bookbinding Manuals (1984) no. 2.  See also Bosch, Carswell, Petherbridge, Islamic Bindings & Bookmaking. A Catalogue of an Exhibition, The Oriental Institute, The University of Chicago (1981). The earliest bindings illustrated and described in this exhibition dated from the 13th to 15th centuries.

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The Oldest Scottish Book Remaining in Scotland Circa 1025

One of the oldest Scottish books remaining in Scotland: a psalter nearly 1,000 years old. (View Larger

The oldest Scottish book remaining in Scotland is an eleventh century illuminated version of the Psalms of King David preserved in the Center for Research Collections at Edinburgh University Library. The Celtic Psalter, with Celtish and Pictish illuminations, was exhibited at the library for the first time in its recorded history in December 2009.

"The origin of the psalter is a mystery but experts believe it was probably produced by monks in Iona, who were also associated with the making of the Book of Kells. It is thought that the book was written for someone of major importance, with one possibility being St Margaret, who was Queen of Scotland around the time it was produced.  

"The 144-page medieval Psalter includes Pictish designs of colourful dragons, beasts and monsters, with images on almost every page" (http://medievalnews.blogspot.com/2009/12/celtic-psalter-scotlands-oldest-book.html, accessed 12-10-2009).

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Medieval Islamic Views of the Cosmos: The Book of Curiosities Circa 1025

In 2002 the Bodleian Library at Oxford acquired one of the only known copies of an illustrated anonymous cosmography compiled in Egypt during the first half of the 11th century. This manuscript contains a series of early maps and astronomical diagrams, most of which are unparalleled in any other known Greek, Latin or Arabic material. The rhyming title of the volume, يKitāb Gharā’ib al-funūn wa-mulaḥ al-ʿuyūn, loosely translates as The Book of Curiosities of the Sciences and Marvels for the Eyes. The Bodleian's copy may have been made in the late 12th or early 13th century. 

"Its unique maps and diagrams include: diagrams of star-groups and comets; a rectangular map of the world with a graphic scale (the earliest surviving example of such a map); a circular world map; individual maps of islands and ports in the eastern Mediterranean, including Sicily, Tinnis, Mahdia, Cyprus, and the Byzantine coasts of Asia Minor; maps illustrating the Mediterranean Sea as a whole, the Indian Ocean, and the Caspian Sea; and maps of five major rivers (the Nile, Indus, Oxus, Euphrates, and Tigris)" (http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/news/2007_mar_29, accessed 01-23-2014).

The significance of the manuscript is such that the Bodleian created a separate website for the manuscript entitled Medieval Islamic Views of the Cosmos. The Book of Curiosities, in which the manuscript is reproduced in facsimile, with translation and commentary, and aids for teachers.

"The volume (now given the shelfmark MS. Arab. c. 90) consists of 48 folios (96 pages), each measuring 324 x 245 mm. Pages without illustrations have 27 lines of text per page. The treatise begins with a dedication to an unnamed patron and an abbreviated table of contents. The manuscript copy is incomplete, however, for the copyist has omitted the eighth and ninth chapters of the second book, and the manuscript has lost part of the penultimate chapter and all of the last one.

The Paper

"The lightly glossed, biscuit-brown paper is sturdy, rather soft, and relatively opaque. The paper has thick horizontal laid lines, slightly curved, and there are rib shadows, but no chain lines or watermarks are visible. The thickness of the paper varies between 0.17 and 0.20 mm and measures 3 on the Sharp Scale of Opaqueness; the laid lines are 6-7 wires/cm, with the space between lines less than the width of one line. The paper would appear to have been made using a grass mould. Paper of such construction was produced in Egypt and Greater Syria in the 12th and 13th centuries (greater precision is not possible). For similar Islamic papers, see Helen Loveday, Islamic Paper: A Study of the Ancient Craft (London, 2001); we thank the author for examining and discussing with us the paper in this particular manuscript.

Authorship, date and provenance

"The author of The Book of Curiosities is not named and has not been identified, although he refers to another composition of his titled يal-Muḥītي(‘The Comprehensive’). On the basis of internal evidence, we can suggest that the treatise was composed in the first half of the 11th century, probably in Egypt. The copy we have today is more recent and appears to have been made some hundred and fifty to two hundred years later. Although the copy is undated and unsigned, the paper, inks, and pigments appear consistent with Egyptian-Syrian products made from the early 13th through the 14th century.ي

"Our author recognized the legitimate authority of the Fāṭimid imāms who came to power in Ifrīqiyah (modern Tunisia) in 909 and ruled at Cairo from 973 until their dynasty was brought to an end by Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn (Saladin) in 1171. At their heyday, the Fāṭimids ruled all over Syria, Egypt and North Africa. Whereas the ʿAbbāsid caliphs of Baghdad were recognized as the rightful leaders of the Muslim community by the Sunnī majority, the Fāṭimid imāms—who claimed to be the biological descendants of the Prophet Muḥammad through his daughter Fāṭimah—were recognized as legitimate by a faithful minority of Ismāʿīlī Muslims. Our author not only opens his work with an explicit acknowledgement of the Fāṭimids but also, further on, gives a brief but highly doctrinaire history of the rise of the dynasty, from the accession of the first imām, al-Mahdī, to the defeat of Abū Yazīd (al-dajjāl, the Antichrist) by his son, al-Qāʾim.ي

"The geographical focus of The Book of Curiosities is Muslim commercial centres of the 9th- to 11th-century eastern Mediterranean, such as Sicily, the textile-producing town of Tinnīs in the Nile Delta, and Mahdīyah in modern Tunisia. The author is equally acquainted with Byzantine-controlled areas of the Mediterranean, such as Cyprus, the Aegean Sea, and the southern coasts of Anatolia. The author’s occasional use of Coptic terms and Coptic months, together with the allegiance to the Fāṭimid caliphs based in Cairo, suggest Egypt as a likely place of production.ي

"The treatise was almost certainly composed before 1050. The tribal group of the Banū Qurrah are mentioned in chapter 6 of Book 2 as inhabiting the lowlands near Alexandria. As the Banū Qurrah are known to have been banished from the region of Alexandria by the Fāṭimid authorities in 1051–1052, it is very likely that this treatise was written before that date. Since Sicily is described as being under Muslim rule, the treatise could definitely not have been composed later than the Norman invasion of Sicily in 1070.ي

"The last dated event mentioned in the treatise is the construction buildings for merchants in the city of Tinnīs in 1014-1015. Moreover, al-Ḥākim bi-Amr Allāh, the Fāṭimid ruler of Egypt and Syria from 996 to 1021, is referred to in the chapter on Tinnīs as if he were no longer reigning. Therefore, the treatise was probably composed after 1021" (http://cosmos.bodley.ox.ac.uk/content.php/boc?expand=732, accessed 01-23-2014)

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Perhaps the Earliest Recycling of Paper 1031

"With the decline of the whole central administration [in Japan] during the Heian period the Zushoryo [the first national library of Japan in Nara] ceased to have such extensive importance and the slave-like guild of papermakers, which had heretofore been kept apart from their contemporaries, gradually merged with the common people and it was not long before the entire Imperial staff was reduced in number and talent. Because of the absence of materials, paper, and skilled workers, the owners of private estates began the erection of small paper mills and they endeavoured to induce the former Zushoryo papermakers to resume their work for them in the fabrication of paper. Up to this time about the only materials used for the making of paper in Japan were the mulberry, gampi (Wikstroemia canescens), and hemp (Cannabis sativa), but as early as 1031 it was recorded that waste paper became a useful material for remaking into sheets of paper. The Chinese, no doubt, had used the method of reclaiming material much earlier, and inasmuch as the Japanese received nearly all of their ideas from China it is reasonable to surmise that there was no exception in this instance. In Japan the remade paper became the sole commodity of the paper-shops (kamiya) and was known by the name of kamiya-gami, literally paper-shop paper. The reclaimed material used in the making of the kamiya-gami was charged with ink and pigment and therefore the paper manufactured from the used material was of a grey tone. It has been stated that even books from the Imperial Library were macerated into pulp to be formed into sheets of the shukushi paper, always of a dull colour due to the writing on the paper from which it was fabricated" (Dard Hunter, Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft, 2nd ed, 1957, 54).

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The First Truly Recognizable Dictionary Circa 1040 – 1050

Page from Papias' Elementarium listing words beginning with "a."


Between 1040 and 1050 Papias, an Italian sometimes known as Papias the Lombard or Papias the Grammarian, wrote Elementarium doctrinae rudimentum. This work, which was in circulation by 1053, has been called the "first fully recognizable dictionary."

"The Elementarium . . . is a landmark in the development of dictionaries as distinct from mere collections of glosses. Papias arranges entries alphabetically based on the first three letters of the word, and is the first lexicographer to name the authors or texts he uses as sources. Although most entries are not etymological, Papias laid the groundwork for derivational lexicography, which became firmly established only a century later. Papias seems to have been a cleric with theological interests, possibly living in Pavia. The name 'Papias'means 'the guide,' and may be a pseudonym or pen name. Bruno of Würzburg saw an early draft of the Elementarium before he died in 1045, but an unambiguous reference in the chronicle of Albericus Trium Fontium establishes that it was published by 1053" (Wikipedia article on Papias, accessed 11-22-2012).

Papias's Elementarium was first published in print under the title Vocabularium by Dominicus de Vespolate of Milan on December 12, 1476. ISTC No. ip00077500.

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The Earliest Codex Preserving Ancient Greek Music Theory January 14, 1040

Page from Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. graec. 281
showing Latin writing referencing the text as being Greek musical theory. Please click on image to see full page.

The earliest codex preserving ancient Greek music theory is Heidelbergensis Palatinus gr. 281. It was probably written in Seleucia on the west bank of the Tigris River, Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) by the scribe, Nikolaos Kalligraphos, and completed on January 14, 1040. The manuscript is preserved at Heidelberg University Library.

"The scribe's colophon states that 'this book was assembled from many works among the private papers of Romanus, judge at Seleucia and my master. All you who read it, pray for him.' The codex was conceived as a complete book; there are no blank leaves or sides. It preserves [Michael] Psellus' complete Syntagma together with the preliminary Logices, and this is followed by his Opiniones de anima, a short excert from Leontinius on the hypostatases, chapter 38 from Photius Quaestiones ad Amphilochium, and ten short theological treatises by Theodore Abucara, an author represented in Arethas' collection of books. It is surely no coincidence that this codex preserves these particular works, which point back to libraries of the ninth century, as well as the work of Psellus. After Theodor Abucara, the codex includes the koine hormasia and an accompanying canon; three sections from Theon of Smyna's treatise, here titled Μομσικομ κανονοξ κατατομη, or 'Division of the Musical Canon'; a short explanation of the musical ratios and genera, part of which corresponds to section 103 of the so-called Bellermann's Anonymous, and a series of excepts from Bacchius' treatise. . . "(Mathiesen, "Hermes of Clio? The Transmission of Ancient Greek Music Theory", Palisca, Baker, Hanning [eds.] Musical Humanism and its Legacy. Essays in Honor of Claude V. Palisca [1992] 9-10).

In February 2014 a digital facsimile of the codex was available from Heidelberg University Library at this link

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The Invention of Movable Type in China Circa 1041 – 1048

BA Chinese statue of Pi Sheng. (View Larger)

Between 1041 and 1048 the Chinese alchemist Bi Sheng (畢昇) invented movable type made of an amalgam of clay and glue hardened by baking, similar to Chinese porcelain. He composed texts by placing the types side by side on an iron plate coated with a mixture of resin, wax, and paper ash. Because the Chinese alphabet is primarily pictographic and ideographic rather than alphabetic, movable type did not advance in China at this time.

"Shen Kuo wrote that during the Qingli reign period (1041–1048), under Emperor Renzong of Song (1022–1063), an obscure commoner and artisan known as Bi Sheng (990–1051) invented ceramic movable type printing.

"Although the use of assembling individual characters to compose a piece of text had its origins in antiquity, Bi Sheng's methodical innovation was something completely revolutionary for his time. Shen Kuo noted that the process was tedious if one only wanted to print a few copies of a book, but if one desired to make hundreds or thousands of copies, the process was incredibly fast and efficient. Beyond Shen Kuo's writing, however, nothing is known of Bi Sheng's life or the influence of movable type in his lifetime.

"Although the details of Bi Sheng's life were scarcely known, Shen Kuo wrote:

" 'When Bi Sheng died, his fount of type passed into the possession of my followers (i.e. one of Shen's nephews), among whom it has been kept as a precious possession until now.

"There are a few surviving examples of books printed in the late Song Dynasty using movable type printing. This includes Zhou Bida's Notes of The Jade Hall (玉堂雜記) printed in 1193 using the method of baked-clay movable type characters outlined in the Dream Pool Essays" (Wikipedia article on Shen Kuo, accessed 01-25-2012).

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The Earliest Surviving Book Written in the Americas Circa 1050 – 1150

Page 74 of the Dresden Codex, depicting a great flood, flowing from the mouth of a celestial dragon. This represents the Central American notion of apocolypse. (View Larger)

The earliest surviving book written in the Americas is the Dresden Codex, a Mayan codex written about 1150 by the Yucatecan Maya in Chichén ItzaYucatan, Mexico. It is the most complete of the four surviving codices written in the Americas before the Spanish conquest.

The codex was made from Amatl paper ("kopó", fig-bark that has been flattened and covered with a lime paste), doubled in folds in an accordion-like form of folding-screen texts. The bark paper was coated with fine stucco or gesso and is eight inches high by eleven feet long.

The Dresden Codex was written by eight different scribes. Each had a particular writing style, glyphs and subject matter. On its 74 pages it incorporates  "images painted with extraordinary clarity using very fine brushes. The basic colors used from vegetable dyes for the codex were red, black and the so-called Mayan blue."

"The Dresden Codex contains astronomical tables of outstanding accuracy. Contained in the codex are almanacs, astronomical and astrological tables, and religious references.The specific god references have to do with a 260 day ritual count divided up in several ways.The Dresden Codex contains predictions for agriculture favorable timing. It has information on rainy seasons, floods, illness and medicine. It also seems to show conjunctions of constellations, planets and the Moon. It is most famous for its Venus table." (quotations from the Wikipedia article Dresden Codex, accessed 11-30-2008).

The history of the survival of the manuscript is only partly known. It is believed that in 1519 it was sent by the conquistador Hernán Cortés as a tribute to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who was also King Charles I of Spain. Charles had appointed Cortés governor and captain general of the newly conquered Mexican territory. In 1739 Johann Christian Götze, Director of the Royal Library at Dresden, purchased the codex from a private owner in Vienna. Götze gave it to the Royal Library in Dresden in 1744.

During the bombing of Dresden in World War II, and the resulting fire storms, the Dresden Codex was heavily water damaged. Twelve pages of the codex were harmed and other parts of the codex were destroyed. However, the codex was meticulously restored after this damage. It is preserved in the Buchmuseum of the Sächsische Landesbibliothek, Dresden. In February 2014 a high-resolution digital facsimile of the codex was available from that library at this link.

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"About 100,000 handwritten Hebrew codices and their remains have survived...." Circa 1050

".... Despite the adoption of the spoken languages of their host societies in everyday life – the wide use of Greek by Hellenized Jews in late antiquity, the extensive employment of Arabic as the main written language in countries under Muslim rule, and later, to a much lesser extent, the application of European vernacular languages in their literature, the Jews have always remained loyal to their own script. Jews have adhered to their Semitic national writing, rendering in it not only epigraphic writings, literary texts and documents written in the Hebrew language, but also other borrowed languages, including the European ones, in transcription. Learned Jews in medieval Christian Europe apparently never employed the Latin script, nor did they use the Latin language in Hebrew transcription. On the other hand, since the eleventh century Jews did employ occasionally and in the late Middle Ages more extensively, the vernacular languages of their environments, transcribing them in Hebrew characters. Old French, Provençal, Catalan, Castilian, Spanish and, of course, Italian, Greek and particularly German were assimilated by the Jews and incorporated into their Hebrew written texts, but always rendered in Hebrew transcription.

"Thus, Jews in the East and the West, and since the ninth century rather exclusively, utilised the Hebrew script for written communication, documentation, legal proceedings and particularly for writing their literature and disseminating it, mainly in Hebrew, but also in other languages, especially Arabic. This remarkable phenomenon, together with the vast territorial dispersion of the Jews, turned a minor marginal script and book craft into a culturally rather major one. From the viewpoint of extent and diffusion, the Hebrew script was employed in the Middle Ages over a larger territorial range than the Greek, Latin or Arabic scripts, as Hebrew manuscripts and documents were produced within and across all these and other script zones.

"This marginal Hebrew script and book craft naturally encompassed diversified regional shapes, types and styles of the common script, book technology and the scribal practices involved in its production. Medieval Hebrew books shared the same script, but were divided by different geo-cultural traditions of fabrication, design and writing modes, strongly influenced by contacts with local non-Jewish values and practices and by the Latin and Arabic scripts. Hebrew manuscripts indeed present a solid diversity of well-differentiated script types, techniques and scribal practices, moulded by the different places where they were made.

"About 100,000 handwritten Hebrew codices and their remains have survived to this day. They are kept in some six hundred national, state, public, municipal, university and monastic libraries and private collections all over the world. Some 300,000 fragments of medieval manuscripts were preserved in the Cairo Genizah, a store room for worn-out books in a synagogue in old Cairo. In addition, numerous remains of re-used bisected medieval European Hebrew manuscripts have been and still are being recovered from the binding covers books in many European collections.

"Among the hundreds of collections of surviving Hebrew manuscripts in the world, only the collections of some dozen libraries are regarded as major collections, both in quantity, by containing at least several hundred manuscripts, and in quality, by having important and rare copies in all the areas of Jewish textual creativity and old, precious and aesthetically designed written books. Those collections are found in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the Vatican Library, the Biblioteca Palatina in Parma, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg, the Russian State Library in Moscow, the National Library in Jerusalem, the British Library in London, the Oriental Institute of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, Cambridge University Library and the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin.

"It may seem rather paradoxical that the extant Hebrew manuscripts which have mostly survived from Christian countries, while escaping mass expulsions and persecutions, were saved mainly by European libraries which purchased them, preserved, conserved and kept them accessible for students and scholars. These Christian institutions became guardians of Jewish literary heritage, like the Bodleian Library and Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana" (Malachi Beit-Arié, "Hebrew Manuscripts," http://bav.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/hebrew-manuscripts, accessed 12-08-2013). 

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The Earliest Surviving Document on Paper from the Byzantine Empire 1052

The earliest surviving document written on paper in the Byzantine empire is an imperial chrysobull dated 1052.

Wilson, "Books and Readers in Byzantium," Byzantine Books and Bookmen (1975) 3.


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The Ostomir Gospels, the Second Earliest East Slavonic Book 1056 – 1057

The second oldest dated East Slavic book, the Ostomir Gospels (Остромирово Евангелие), was created by deacon Gregory for his patron, Posadnik Ostromir of Novgorod in 1056 or 1057, probably as a gift to a monastery. Because Novgorod was not overrun by the Mongols, more early manuscripts have survived from this city than another other city in Russia.

"The book is a illuminated manuscript Gospel Book lectionary containing only feast-day and Sunday readings. It is written in a large uncial hand in two columns on 294 parchment sheets of the size 20 x 24 cm. Each page contains eighteen lines. The book is concluded by the scribe's notice about the circumstances of its creation.

"Three full page evangelist portraits survive, by two different artists, and many pages have decorative elements. The close resemblance between this and the equivalent pages in the Mstislav Lectionary suggests they are both based on a common prototype, now lost. The two artists who produced the evangelist portraits were both heavily influenced by Byzantine models, but the style of the portraits of Saints Mark and Luke seems to derive from Byzantine enamelled plaques rather than manuscripts" (Wikipedia article on Ostomir Gospels, accessed 01-19-2013).

The Ostomir Gospels are preserved in the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg.

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The Latest Certain Dates for the Use of Papyrus 1057 – 1087

Pope Victor II.

"By CE 800 the use of parchment and vellum had replaced papyrus in many areas, though its use in Egypt continued until it was replaced by more inexpensive paper introduced by Arabs. The reasons for this switch include the significantly higher durability of the hide-derived materials, particularly in moist climates, and the fact that they can be manufactured anywhere. The latest certain dates for the use of papyrus are 1057 for a papal decree (typically conservative, all papal "bulls" were on papyrus until 1022), under Pope Victor II, and 1087 for an Arabic document. Papyrus was used as late as the 1100s in the Byzantine Empire, but there are no surviving examples. Although its uses had transferred to parchment, papyrus therefore just overlapped with the use of paper in Europe, which began in the 11th century" (Wikipedia article on Papyrus, accessed 01-03-2010)

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More than One Million Charters Survive from the Period of Norman Rule in England 1066 – 1307

More than one million charters survive, either as originals or early copies, from the period of Norman rule in Britain, from 1066 to 1307. Many of these documents are records of property and land transactions written in Latin and recorded by religious or royal institutions. They are fundamental source material for historical research in medieval politics, economics and society.

Through these charters historians can study the rise and fall of military and religious organizations, among many other topics. For example, charters show how the Knights Hospitallers, or the Order of Saint John, a religious organization founded around 1023 to provide care for poor, sick or injured pilgrims to the Holy Land, became a religious and military organization after the Western Christian conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, when it was charged with the care and defense of the Holy Land.

In the late seventeeth and early eighteenth centuries dating medieval charters was one of the problems which motivated Mabillon and Montfaucon to pioneer the science of palaeography. However, at least one million of the Norman charters remain undated, largely due to adminstrative changes introduced by William the Conqueror in 1066. To solve problem of dating the huge number of undated charters Gelila Tilahun and colleagues at the University of Toronto are applying computer-automated statistical techniques with the goal of reducing the time and effort to date them manually, and to improve the accuracy of assigned dates.

"Their approach is to use a subset of some 10,000 charters that are dated and to look for changes in language over time that could be used to date other documents. For example, Tilahun and co say that the phrase “amicorum meorum vivorum et mortuorum”, which means 'of my friends living and dead', was popular between the years 1150 and 1240 but not at other times. And the phrase 'Francis et Anglicis', which is a form of address meaning 'to French and English', was phased out when England lost Normandy to the French in 1204. However, the statistical approach is much more rigorous than simply looking for common phrases. Tilahun and co’s computer search looks for patterns in the distribution of words occurring once, twice, three times and so on. 'Our goal is to develop algorithms to help automate the process of estimating the dates of undated charters through purely computational means,' they say.  

"This approach reveals various patterns which they then test by attempting to date individual documents in this set. They say the best approach is one known as the maximum prevalence technique. This is a statistical technique that gives a most probable date by comparing the set of words in the document with the distribution in the training set.  

"Tilahun and co say their approach also has other applications. For example, the same technique could be used to work out authorship and to weed out forgeries, of which there are known to be a substantial number.  

"So how well does it work in practice? These guys finish their paper with a fascinating anecdote about a medieval English charter that was discovered in a drawer at the library of Brock University near Niagara Falls.  T

"The charter lacked a data so various historians attempted to work out when it was written. The first estimates pointed to the 14th century but these were later revised to the 13th century. Eventually, by comparing the charter to other records, one academic pinned it down to a date between 1235 and 1245.  

"Inspired by the media interest in this charter, Tilahun and co ran the document through their automated maximum prevalence procedure. 'The date estimate we obtained was 1246,' they say, with just a little hint of pride. Not bad!" (MIT Technology Review, 01-16-2013, accessed 01-16-2013).

Gelila Tilahun, Andrey Feuerverger, and Michael Gervers, "Dating medieval English charters," Annals of Applied Statistics VI (2012) 1615-1640.


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The Norman Conquest September 28 – October 14, 1066

William the Conqueror, seated center, flanked by Odo, Archbishop of Canterbury, left, and Rotbert, right.  <p>William of Normandy, less well known as William the Bastard, and better known as <a href=William the Conqueror, landed unopposed in England on September 28, 1066.

The Norman Conquest of England ocurred with the defeat of the Saxon King Harald's forces at the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066.

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Destruction of the 200,000 Volume Palace Library at Cairo 1068

The sacking of Cairo in 1068 resulted in the destruction of its 200,000 volume Palace Library.

Harris, History of Libraries in the Western World, 4th ed. [1999] 80.

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Defeat of the Byzantine Empire by Turks August 26, 1071

A miniature from a 15th century French translation of Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium, showing Alp Arslan, second sultan of the Seljuk dynasty, humiliating Emperor Romanos IV. (View Larger)

Defeat of the Byzantine Empire in the battle with Seljuk Turkish forces at Manzikert on August 26, 1071, and the capture of Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes, demonstrated to European Christians that Byzantine forces were not capable of protecting Eastern Christianity. This eventually led to the Crusades.

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The Earliest Surviving Manuscript of the Earliest Western Medical Treatise Circa 1075 – 1098

Folio 1r of the manuscript of Liber Pantegni preserved in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek. (View Larger)

A manuscript of the Liber Pantegni by the Tunisian Muslim merchant-turned-monk, Constantinus Africanus, who traveled to Italy, converted to Christianity, and worked at the Abbey of Monte Cassino toward the end of the 11th century, is the earliest surviving copy of Constantinus's work, characterized as "the earliest Western medical treatise." It is believed that this manuscript, preserved in the Koninklijke Bibiotheek in The Hague. was produced in the Abbey of Monte Cassino, probably under the supervision of Constantine Africanus.

A compendium of Hellenistic and Islamic medicine, and to a large extent a translation of the Kitab al-malaki "Royal Book" of the Persian physician and psychologist Ali ibn al-Abbas, Constantinus's' Liber pantegni (παντεχνη "[encompassing] all [medical] arts") became a standard text at the Schola Medica Salernitana, the first European medical school, and was highly influential throughout the middle ages.  

In February 2014 a digital facsimile of the manuscript was available at this link.

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The VIDI Project: "Manuscript Innovation in the Twelfth-Century Renaissance" Circa 1075 – 1225

From the website of the Leiden University VIDI Project coordinated by Dr. Erik Kwakkel, selected quotations:

"While the medieval manuscript underwent over a thousand years of development by the hands of a variety of cultures, one particular age stands out in that it arguably introduced more innovations than any other: the period 1075-1225, also referred to as the “Twelfth-Century Renaissance” (Benson and Constable 1991; Haskins 1927; Swanson 1999). While this established term might be historiographically restrictive (Jaeger 2003; see also Thomson 2002), the notion it covers (one cultural movement that unites scholars in different fields and geographical locations) is useful in that it brings under one umbrella a number of related historical events, such as monastic reform, establishment of universities, birth of scholasticism, revival of jurisprudence, and the introduction of Greek and Arabic philosophy. This “Great Awakening” of Europe (Knowles 1962, Chap. 7) gave alacrity and optimism to educated society, whose members sensed they were living in a time different from their immediate past and who contemplated, often explicitly, their role in the course of history and the new present (Abulafia 2006; Jaeger 1994). The term “renaissance of letters” is sometimes used to accentuate that this cultural movement was primarily driven by intellectuals (Damian-Grint 1999; Luscombe 2004; Verger 1995), first those in Northern France, Belgium and Northern Italy, followed suit by kindred spirits in Southern Italy, Germany and Spain. These intellectuals — who lacked cohesion other than a shared background (a “career”, perhaps) in higher education, a deep yearning for knowledge and the sense that classical ideas ought to be revived in their life-time — exchanged ideas through texts and letters, which were disseminated through the main intellectual centers in medieval Europe, monasteries, cathedral schools and universities. Here the new voices, presenting new ideas in a new language of eloquence, were read and heard, and contradicted and expanded upon, by a broad range of intellectuals, from St Bernard of Clairvaux and William of Malmesbury to Peter Abelard and John of Salisbury.

"Overall aim

"The research project described here does not focus on the Twelfth-Century Renaissance as such, nor exclusively on book innovations in this age. Rather, it presents an innovative blend of the two: it aims to show how a changing literary taste, a shift in the use of texts, and a new outlook on the world among intellectuals had a direct and immediate influence on the physical appearance of manuscripts. In an age that is defined by the introduction of an unusually high number of new authors (foreign and home-grown), texts (original Latin works and translations) and genres (natural philosophy, encyclopedia), as well as a new approach to reading and evaluating the written word (through the scholastic method), it became important for readers to own manuscripts that presented texts in an entirely different format than the vehicles they inherited from the Carolingians (9th-11th centuries). This research project aims to show that to meet these demands, a new manuscript was cast in the twelfth century, custom-tailored for use in the new age. Certain elements of this new book have already been examined, such as its script (Derolez 2001, Chap. 3), decoration (Cahn 1996), bookbinding (Sheppard 1995) and the glossing it frequently contains (De Hamel 1984). Furthermore, the contexts of its production and use have been illuminated for some individual copies (Donovan 1993; Gibson 1992; Gullick 1990), regional branches (Kaufmann 1975; Ker 1955; Thomson 1998; Thomson 2006) or monastic houses (Palmer 1998, Chap. 2; Thomson 1982). However, the manuscript as a whole and as a new European book format has to date been largely ignored, as has the historical backdrop of its creation, a pan-European intellectual movement. What has been studied in depth is its successor, a book known as the “Gothic Manuscript”, the handwritten book produced between c. 1200 and c. 1530 that is defined by a new script (Gothic script), certain ornamental motives, standardization in the production stages, and a commercial production environment (Derolez 1996). The proposed project focuses on the “lost” century in the history of medieval written culture, the period between the conclusion of the Carolingian age (c. 1100) and the start of the Gothic period (c. 1200), an epoch in which the physical book is in transition from one prolific format to another. 

"Over the course of the twelfth century, manuscript production and the manner in which books were used had turned over a new leaf: a new script was introduced (known as the “Littera Praegothica”), new decoration emerged (so-called “proto-penwork” flourishing) and new aids for the reader were invented. The latter dimension proves to be of particular importance in understanding the establishment of the new book format, which can, for now, be called the “pregothic manuscript”, for lack of a better term. As this project aims to demonstrate, the majority of book innovations introduced between c. 1100 and c. 1200 were aimed either at improving the speed with which information in the book or on the page could be accessed, or facilitated a better understanding of the complex intellectual discourse that the texts of this age often presented. In short, the new format facilitated an improved “book fluency”, to borrow Kelly’s term, or the ability to read a text (presented on a page) quickly and accurately. While in the late eleventh century book culture nearly completely lacked tools that could rise to these occasions, by the outset of the thirteenth century scribes had a rich palette of aids at their disposal that facilitated comprehension and speedy access, such as pagination, running titles, paragraphs, quotation marks, footnotes, cross references, diagrams, marginal keywords clarifying the argumentation (“first argument”, “second”, “third”, etc.), the use of abbreviated names of authorities as marginal reference tools (“aug” for Augustine, “am” for Ambrose), interplay between various text colors, availability of multiple script types and sizes (“hierarchy of scripts”), and a layout that visually distinguished between main text and “add-ons” (commentary, reference, etc.). These revolutionary “paratextual” features define the pregothic manuscript, the project claims, because they were instrumental for the new breed of European scholars. They prompted what the philosopher Ivan Illich calls a “bookish culture” (Illich 1996) in that they helped to organize knowledge, convert words into arguments and open a dialogue between reader and author." 

"The project will be primarily based on 250 manuscripts written between 1075 and 1225 (the traditional boundaries of the Twelfth-Century Renaissance) present in the so-called Catalogues des Manuscrits Datés, or CMD (Derolez 2009). This source, which has seen rapid growth over the past five years and can now be used for inquiries such as the present, contains hundreds of manuscripts. The inclusion of an item is based on the presence of a scribal colophon stating when a book was made, and each entry includes a transcription of this colophon, as well as one or more images and a rudimentary manuscript description. This unique tool, which, in spite of its excellent suitability for this task, has to date never been used in an historical investigation of this kind, enables us to firmly date the emergence (and disappearance) of certain physical features. The corpus of 250 manuscripts will be expanded with a selection of other manuscripts that can with certainty be tied to a particular year of production, bringing the total to no more than 300 manuscripts. It is anticipated that most of these manuscripts will have been written in Latin. However, the project includes investigations into the application of the new book format in the European vernacular traditions, aspects of which have been probed in Kwakkel, forthcoming 2" (http://www.hum.leiden.edu/lucas/research/news/manuscript-innovation.html, accessed 02-08-2014. References referred to in these quotations were also detailed at this link.)

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The Norman Conquest Recorded on the Bayeux Tapestry 1077

A scene from the Bayeux tapestry, showing Odo, Archbishop of Canterbury, on horseback. (View Larger)

The Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidery roughly 70 meters long, was produced in England, possibly in Canterbury, commemorating events leading up to and after the Battle of Hastings.

"The tapestry has text in Latin describing what is happening in the scenes. This work of art includes 623 humans, 202 horses, 41 ships, 2000 Latin words and 8 different colors of yarn."

A view of one half of the gallery in which the Bayeux tapestry is preserved. (View Larger)


"The tapestry was most likely first put on display in the Cathedral of Notre Dame [in Bayeux] built by Bishop Odo in 1077. Then, no mention of it is found for the next 300 years. Then, it was mentioned in 1750 when it was referred to in a book by the name of Palaeographia Britannicus. Soon afterward, the people of Bayeux, who were fighting for the Republic, needed cloth to cover their wagons. As such, the tapestry was removed from the cathedral and used to cover an ammunition wagon. A lawyer saved the tapestry by replacing it with another cloth. In 1803 Napoleon seized it and transported it to Paris. Napoleon wanted to use the tapestry as inspiration for his planned attack on England. When this plan was cancelled, the tapestry was returned to Bayeux. The townspeople wound the tapestry up and stored it like a scroll. The tapestry spent World War II wound up in the Louvre. Now it is stored in a museum in a dark room with special lighting to avoid damaging it."

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The Domesday Book, Recording the First English Census December 1085 – August 1086

The Domesday Book. (View Larger) /></p></a>  <p>William I of England, better known as <a href=In 1085 William I, the first Norman King of England (better known as William the Conqueror, and less well known as William the Bastard), commissioned the Domesday Bookwhich recorded the first English census. (The name is pronounced like "doomsday.")

The first draft of the Domesday Book was completed in August 1086 and contained records for 13,418 settlements in the English counties south of the rivers Ribble and Tees (the border with Scotland at the time). William commissioned the book to assess the extent of the land owned in England, and the extent of the taxes he could raise. The information collected was recorded in two huge books in around one year, but William died in 1087 before the Domeday Book was completed. It is preserved in The National Archives of Britain in Richmond, Greater London.

A page of the Domesday Book on Warwickshire. (View Larger)

The work was called the Domesday Book because:

"It was written by an observer of the survey that 'there was no single hide nor a yard of land, nor indeed one ox nor one cow nor one pig which was left out.' The grand and comprehensive scale on which the Domesday survey took place, and the irreversible nature of the information collected led people to compare it to the Last Judgement, or 'Doomsday', described in the Bible, when the deeds of Christians written in the Book of Life were to be placed before God for judgment. This name was not adopted until the late 12th Century."

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Earliest Description of the Compass 1086

A bust of Shen Kua. (View Larger)

In 1086 Chinese scholar and scientist of the Song Dynasty Shen Kua (Shen Gua) wrote Dream Pool Essays while virtually isolated on his lavish garden estate near modern-day Zhenjiang, in the southwest of Jiangsu province.

Dream Pool Essays contained the earliest description of the principle of the compass—magnetizing a needle by rubbing its tip with lodestone, hanging the magnetic needle with one single strain of silk with a bit of wax attached to the center of the needle. Shen Kua pointed out that the needle prepared this way sometimes points south, sometimes points north.

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Foundation of the University of Bologna 1088

The seal of the University of Bologna. (View Larger)

The foundation of Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna, (UNIBO. University of Bologna) the oldest continuously operating university, ocurred in 1088.

"An important idea in the definition of a university is the notion of academic freedom. The first documentary evidence of this comes early in the life of the first university. Bologna university adopted an academic charter, the Constitutio Habita, in 1158 or 1155, which guaranteed the right of a traveling scholar to unhindered passage in the interests of education. Today this is claimed as the origin of 'academic freedom'.This is now widely recognised internationally, when on 18 September 1988 430 University Rectors signed the Magna Charta Universitatum, marking the 900th anniversary of Bologna's foundation" (Wikipedia article on university, accessed 09-25-2010).

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A Medieval Encyclopedia, of which the Autograph Manuscript Survived Circa 1090 – 1125

A T-O design from Lambert's Liber Floridus. (View Larger)

Between 1090 and 1125 Lambert, Canon of Saint-Omer, France, compiled the Liber Floridus, a kind of encyclopedia of Biblical, chronological, astronomical, geographical, cartographic, theological, philosophical and natural history compiled from 192 different works. Lambert's Liber floridus was the first of the encyclopedias of the High Middle Ages that slowly superseded the work of Isidore of Seville. The original autograph manuscript, completed in 1120 and dedicated to Saint Omer (St. Audomar) by Canon Lambert, is preserved in Ghent University Library, though its latter portion did not survive. In February 2014 Ghent University Library provided an unusually detailed, well documented, website for the manuscript, and a digital facsimile at this link.

Liber floridus includes various maps including a mappa mundi. The Ghent manuscript, the oldest of the known copies, includes a map of parts of Europe and two climate-zone drawings based on the Macrobian model as an attempt to make a complete world map. The parts of the European map sketch show interesting and odd representations. 

"In this treatise Lambert compiled a chronicle or history that reaches to the year 1119; it contains various maps, including a mappamundi, which originally like the text, has a date at least earlier than 1125, and has survived in three forms: in the manuscripts of Ghent, Wolfenbüttel, and Paris. In spite of a clearly expressed intention of supplying a complete world map, the oldest copy, the Ghent manuscript, only includes Europe, two Macrobian-zone sketches and a T-O design. This particular manuscript copy seems to have been written by Lambert himself, certainly not later than 1125, and contains some remarkable peculiarities with regards to Europe. The Wolfenbüttel and Paris copies, dating from about 1150, are simply different copies from the same original, which was doubtless of Lambert's own draftsmanship (although in a monograph entitled Die Weltkarte des Martianus Capella, R. Uhden has pointed out that the world map contained in the Wolfenbüttel copy carries a legend ascribing the original to Martianus Capella. The correctness of the ascription is further verified by the identity of various other legends on the map with passages in the Satyricon or De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii . . . by Martianus Capella). These maps, which are based upon Capella's design, contain an equatorial ocean but are quite different than the Macrobian zone-maps (Slide #201). The ecliptic is usually shown, with the twelve signs of the zodiac, and the generalization of the coastlines is rounded in nature. Most of these maps are characteristically oriented to the East (although some show a northern orientation), and have a large amount of text in the southern continent. The climatic zones may or may not be explicitly shown. Regularly shaped islands are usually found in the ocean surrounding the northern continent.

"While containing a less detailed Europe, both the Wolfenbüttel and Paris manuscripts possess a complete mappamundi, together with a special and interesting addition. Nowhere else in medieval cartography do we find greater prominence assigned to the unknown southern continent - the Australian land of the fabled Antipodes (termed Antichthon by the ancients). On the Paris manuscript, where this land occupies half of the circle of the earth, a long inscription defines this 'region of the south' in terms not unlike those used on the St. Sever - Beatus map (Slide #207D)" (http://www.henry-davis.com/MAPS/EMwebpages/217mono.html, accessed 12-26-2008)

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The Earliest Surviving Manuscript of Razi's "The Comprehensive Book on Medicine" (Kitab al-Hawi fi al-tibb) November 30, 1094

The earliest surviving manuscript of The Comprehensive Book on Medicine (Kitab al-Hawi fi al-tibb) by Muhammad ibn Zakariyā Rāzī(Persian: محمد زکریای رازی‎ Mohammad-e Zakariā-ye Rāzi, also known by his Latinized name Rhazes or Rasis) is NLM MS A17 preserved in the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland. This manuscript was completed by an unknown scribe, probably working in Baghdad, on November 30, 1094 ((19 Dhu al-Qa`dah 487 H). 

Razi (Rhazes) was born in the second half of the ninth century, possibly 854 or 865 CE in Rey (Rayy), a town located on the southern slopes of the Alborz Range situated near Tehran. He died in the same town about 925 CE (312 H). In Razi's time Rey was located on the Great Silk Road that facilitated trade and cultural exchanges between East and West. His name Razi in Persian means "from the city of Rey", an ancient town called Ragha in old Persian, or Ragâ in old Bactrian

A physician learned in philosophy as well as music and alchemy, Razi served at the Samanid court in Central Asia, and headed hospitals in Rey and Baghdad. He was the author of over 200 treatises, several of which remained standard works in the Middle East and Europe through the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. Some of his treatises were regarded as having practical value as late as the 18th century.

In spite of the profound and extremely durable nfluence of Razi and other Middle Eastern physicians, such as ibn-Sina or Albucasis, when I wrote this entry in April 2014 the NLM website stated that NLM MS A17 was "the oldest volume in NLM and the third oldest Arabic medical manuscript known to be preserved today." Their website did not identify the two earliest Arabic medical manuscripts, and when writing this I made a mental note to attempt to identify them. The paucity of survival of the earliest Arabic manuscripts is reflective of the lack of stability in Middle Eastern institutions, and also, possibly, of the tendency of medieval translators from the Arabic into Latin to discard the texts from which they worked after the translations were complete.

MS 17 preserves only one section of Razi's Kitabl al-Hawi fi al-tibb, the section on gastrointestinal ailments. Razi's Comprehensive Book on Medicine (Kitab al-Hawi fi al-tibb) was a large private notebook, or commonplace book, into which Razi placed extracts from earlier authors regarding diseases and therapy and also recorded clinical cases of his own experience. The material comprising the Hawi is arranged under headings of different diseases, with separate sections on pharmacological topics.

"Following al-Razi's death, Ibn al-`Amid, a statesman and scholar appointed vizier to the Persian ruler Rukn al-Dawlah in 939 (327 H), happened to be in the town of Rayy and purchased from al-Razi's sister the notes comprising the Hawi, or Comprehensive Book. He then arranged for the pupils of al-Razi to put the notes in order and make them available. The Hawi is an extremely important source for our knowledge of Greek, Indian, and early Arabic writings now lost, for al-Razi was meticulous about crediting his sources. Moreover, the clinical cases, while not unique, are the most numerous and varied in the Islamic medieval medical literature.

"Europe knew al-Razi by the Latinized form of his name, Rhazes. His Comprehensive Book on Medicine, the Hawi, was translated into Latin in 1279 under the title Continens by Faraj ben Salim, a physician of Sicilian-Jewish origin employed by Charles of Anjou to translate medical works. Even more influential in Europe was al-Razi's Book of Medicine Dedicated to Mansur, a short general textbook on medicine in ten chapters which he had dedicated in 903 (290 H) to the Samanid prince Abu Salih al-Mansur ibn Ishaq, governor of Rayy. The treatise was translated into Latin in Toledo by Gerard of Cremona (d. 1187) and was known as Liber ad Almansoris. It became one of the most widely read medieval medical manuals in Europe, and the ninth chapter, on therapeutics, frequently circulated by itself under the title Liber nonus ad Almansorem. In the Renaissance many editions of it were printed with commentaries by the prominent physicians of the day, such as Andreas Vesalius.

"A third treatise by al-Razi that was also influential in Europe was his book on smallpox and measles (Kitab fi al-jadari wa-al-hasbah). His was not the earliest monograph on the subject -- that honor goes to Thabit ibn Qurrah, a 9th-century Sabian Syriac-speaking translator and scholar working in Baghdad who became one of the great names in the history of Islamic science, especially in mathematics and astronomy. Al-Razi's treatise on smallpox and measles was, however, the more influential and was twice translated into Latin in the 18th century at a time when there was much interest in inoculation or variolation around 1720 following the description of the procedure in Turkey by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, wife of the Ambassador Extraordinary to the Turkish Court in Istanbul.

"Among al-Razi's smaller medical tracts were treatises on colic, on stones in the kidney and bladder, on curing diseases in one hour (such as headache, toothache, haemorrhoids, and dysentery in small children), on diseases of children, on diabetes, on food for the sick, on maladies of the joints, on medicine for one who is unattended by a physician, on medical aphorisms, and on the fact that some mild diseases are more difficult to diagnose and treat than the serious ones. He also composed a book on the reason why the heads of people swell at the time of the roses and produce catarrh, in which he was apparently the first to relate hay fever to the scent of roses" (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/islamic_medical/islamic_06.html, accessed 04-09-2014).

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Origins of the First Crusade March – November 1095

Henri Gourgouillon's vision of Pope Urban II, located at le Place de la Victoire in Clermont-Ferrand, France. (View Larger)

In March 1095 Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos (Alexius I Comnenus, Ἀλέξιος Α' Κομνηνός) sent his ambassador to the Pope, asking for help defending his empire against the Muslim Seljuk Turks. Responding to the emperor's request, in November of that year Pope Urban II delivered a sermon at the Council of Clermont that was characterized as "the most effective single speech in European history." He motivated the attending nobility and the people to wrestle the Holy Land from the hands of the Seljuk Turks. One the tools he used to motivate was his declaration that he remitted all penance incurred by who had confessed their sins in the Sacrament of Penance, considering participation in the crusade equivalent to a complete penance. This is the earliest record of a plenary indulgence.

Urban II's speech led to the First Crusade. Crusader armies marched on Jerusalem, sacking several cities on their way. In 1099 they took Jerusalem and massacred the population. As a result of the First Crusade, several small Crusader states were created, notably the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

(This entry was last revised on 03-19-2014.)

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Origins of the University of Oxford 1096

Oxford University's coat of arms. (View Larger)

Though the date of the founding of the University of Oxford is unknown, there is evidence of teaching there by 1096.

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