Hello, Ben! I'm really enjoying your column. Glad I found it, after all these years. :-)
I have a question that's been bothering me since I've started deep-diving into medieval paleography. I have a hunch you might be exactly the person to ask.
Why did medieval scribes start dotting the letter Y?
It seems -- based on what've been able to find -- to have started around the Carolingian Renaissance, or not very long before it (certainly before the practice of dotting the letter I). The sources I've found either say nothing about it, or claim it was to discriminate Y from thorn, which I have reasons to doubt. I have my own hypothesis, but it better to ask an expert before getting carried away ;-)
There is also the evolution of bookselling transitioning from a two-step process, where you would buy a book as a text block -- just the printed pages of a book stacked in signatures that may not be trimmed -- and take it to a bookbinder to have it trimmed and bound to your specification, to a single-step process, where you would buy books as fully-bound entities. This is one reason why you see books from older libraries showing bindings that are uniform over books of wildly differing content, and the same book from different libraries might have considerably different bindings -- the buyers would have the books bound to fit the presentation they wanted to see in their library, rather than having the publisher decide how the book would be bound. When pre-bound books became common, the early convention was (and still is for books presenting themselves as 'higher class') to mimic the common binding types for the earlier individually-bound books.
Though given the prices and target market of "ordinary" books relative to the wages of each age, you should compare Hortus Sanitatis with contemporary "art books".
This is a lot of fun Ben. My favourite early modern books are those with anatomical flaps or astronomical volvelles. Thanks for an entertaining blog post. Best, Anna Marie
Just a heads up: the link under "Primary source quote of the week" links to a search for the word "obnoxious", not the quotation above it.
Also: the original text appears to say "moFt excellent" (perhaps a typo, but clearly not an "s" when compared to the word "vapours" 2 lines up)
Corrected link: https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_American_Physitian_Or_a_Treatise_of/Oa9kAAAAcAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=%22Chocolate%20is%20moft%20excellent%22
I was given a modern print of Don Quixote (Macmillan Collector's Library) and it is a joy to hold and read. I understand your interest. Also, you might like (or already know) "Grover and the Everything in the whole wide world museum"
I am now utterly captivated by the Ortus Sanitatis--I took Latin in high school, but have lost most of it--do you know if there is a translation? I am aching to know what the text saying!
Awesome! Really enjoyed the read. I collect books (and went to school with Chris Heaney!) at the Ritman Library of Hermetic Philosophy in Amsterdam. The book on Natural Magick is one of my favs! I love the intersection of magic and science :)