2. COMPUTUS RELATED MATERIALS fols. 3r-7v: OVERVIEW
This section of MS 17 contains the following:
- 1. Abbo of Fleury's acrostic: fol. 3r.
- 2. Grammar of numbers: fol. 3v.
- 3. Three Critical Days: fol. 3v.
- 4. Three Marvellous Days: fol. 3v.
- 5. World Ages: fol. 3v.
- 6. Embolisms: fol. 3v.
- 7. Lunaria : fol. 4r.
- 8. Birth Prognostic: fol. 4r.
- 9. Coena Cypriani : fols. 4v-5r.
- 10. Riddle: fol. 5r.
- 11. Runic, cryptographic and exotic alphabets: fol. 5v.
- 12. Cryptogram (1): fol. 5v.
- 13. Cryptogram (2): fol. 5v.
- 14. Easter lunar limits rotae : fol. 5v.
- 15. Sunrise rota : fol. 5v.
- 16. Mappamundi : fol. 6r.
- 17. Feria table: fol. 6r.
- 18. Degrees of affinity: fols. 6v-7r.
- 19. Taxonomy of knowledge: fol. 7r.
- 20. Byrhtferth's Diagram: fol. 7v.
Between the front section of medical texts and the beginning of the calendar on fol. 16r lies a group of short texts, tables and diagrams whose relation to one another, and to the rest of MS 17, is not easy to grasp at first glance. However, computus plays an important role in shaping this collection, and computus texts and tables becomes more dominant as one approaches the calendar. This material has therefore been divided into two sections: "Computus related materials" (fols. 3r-7v) covers the front end of this assemblage, where the computus proper is diluted with other types of time-related issues (prognostication, chronology, genealogy...); "Computus texts and tables" spans fols. 8r-15r, and is almost exclusively calendrical in focus.
There is evidence that the compilers of MS 17 were guided by a plan in their arrangement of these materials. For example, the prognostica on fols. 3v-4r resonate thematically with the prognosis material in the preceding medical section. 1 On the whole, however, these two sections present a rather improvised aspect; indeed, because several of the computus tables lack verbal instructions (canones) they are difficult to understand and use. This contrasts sharply with the section on fols. 16r-37v, where calendar, auxiliary tables, and materials related to Paschal reckoning form a logically arranged computus text-book.
Nonetheless, these "Computus related Materials", and the " Computus Texts and Tables " which follow, when they are compared with materials in other contemporary or earlier computus manuscripts, are quite conventional and easy to recognize. In Paris, BNF lat. 5239 for instance, a block of materials following immediately on the calendar (fols. 141r-236r) displays a similar variety and apparent chaos. A diagram of the zodiac (fol. 141r) is followed by a tidal rota and a feria table (fol. 142r-v) very like those on fol. 8r of MS 17fol. 35v, but also comparable to the one on fol. 5v; a syzygia elementorum (fol. 144v), like the one on the second folio (fol. 39v) of the excerpt from Isidore's text on the elements (fol. 39r) in MS 17's cosmographical anthology (fol. 39v); a horologium(fol. 144v; compare to MS 17 fol. 37r); extracts from Isidore of Seville's Etymologiae on time, astronomy and geology (fols. 149r-162r); notices of critical days (fols. 162v-163r; compare to MS 17, fol. 3v); Isidore's table of affinities, with text (fols. 163r-166r; compare to MS 17 fols. 6v-7r); and the Sphere of Life and Death (fols. 166v-167v; compare to MS 17 fol. 8r). Following a group of chronicles (fols. 169r-196r) and a commentary on Bede's De temporum ratione (fols. 196r-199v) come lunar-letter tables (fols. 200r-204v; compare MS 17 fols. 10r-v); texts on the months (fols. 205r-212r); computistical poetry (fol. 212r-v; compare to MS 17 fol. 14r-v); multiplication tables (fols. 213r-214r; compare MS 17 fol. 35r); cosmographical anthology materials (fols. 214r-231v; compare MS 17 fols. 37v-40v); computus tables (fols. 233v-234v); and a collection of alphabets, some with numerical values, and including the exotic alphabet of "Ethicus Ister", and the litterae Northmannorum (fols. 235r-236r; compare MS 17, fols. 5v, 11r).
Paris BNF lat. 5239 is a typically Carolingian computus manuscript; its structure is akin to that of BNF lat. 5543, nouv. acq. lat. 1615 and 1616, and numerous others. Nonetheless, some of the cognate material in MS 17 is fairly new on the English scene, notably the prognostica. However, almost every element in this "miscellany" owes its inclusion to its relationship, by analogy, to the computus. In this regard, MS 17 demonstrates the encyclopedic potential of the computus to attract and arrange a wide spectrum of information and lore.
Lunaria, critical days, and birth prognostics are also frequently found in codices otherwise devoted entirely to medicine: see Cameron 1983, 144 (re: London, British Library Sloane 465 fols. 125-231) and the survey of Anglo-Saxon medical prognostica in Bonser1963, 288-289. Roy Liuzza argues that medicine was an important force attracting prognostica into monastic manuscripts of all types, and justifying their presence there: Liuzza 2001, 202-204.