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Creation and Use of Monastic Books in 15th Century Spain



A sheet of manuscript music that reads ofanna inexcclfis in mo ntc oliuc ti o?a uita dpa trem pa. Text separates the music into two parts between fis and in. That text reads democ dicit faccrdos. Dns vo bifcn. Intno o?ationis miffc. Dio. Deus quc diligere. Quitc cum. Sub feruptalccho:lcgitur in tono cplc. Le lub?i c?doi. In dicbus illis. Vencrunt h ly ifraclm. Dcindc cm tatur p?o gradu?ti. Ir in monte olucti o refponfum. There is a decorated I.Imagine having to handwrite your notes during class, but before you get to class and start writing, you also had to create the paper, bind the pages together, mix up the ink you’ll need, and craft a pen to write with. This, in a sense, is the process it took to create a book in a 15th-century monastery.

The works created in monasteries, especially those for use within the monastery, provide an echo of monastic life. Through them we gain insights into the life of a medieval monk. For the monks, the tasks of creating the manuscripts served as an integral part of their devotion and service, both to God and their community. The monks seldom composed new works, but instead copied previously written texts, often editing them in the process. Studying these examples of "living literature" helps scholars both track the gradual changes within a text and also place individual books in the history of the text's development.

Not only were the tasks of creating manuscripts a spiritual exercise, this work served the community in multiple ways. These books could be used internally for Lectio Divina or spiritual reading, traded with other monasteries to grow their libraries, or used to raise funds for the monasteries when commissioned by wealthy patrons.