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Scraps of Thought: Margin Notes in Old Romanian Books

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Mariana Borcoman

Scraps of thought analyses notes in medieval books from the archive of the First Romanian School from Şcheii Brașovului, the Romanian settlement outside Brașov city walls. Merchants, craftsmen and wealthy people financially supported St. Nicholas Church and the school on its premises. Families of scholars, formed in the school of Şcheii, preserved the light of books and Romanian Orthodoxism in the region. The notes in the books reveal an educated society, passing on fragments of their way of thinking. We learn about unusual weather conditions, covenants for preserving the moral norms, information regarding the meeting of the priests in the area and especially the curses that were meant to protect the books. The study shows the medieval book as a written medium which included glimpses of life, fragments of human emotions and events.
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Chapter III. Margin notes in Old books – A Historical source

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Chapter III. Margin notes in Old books – A Historical source

To focus on the margin notes made in old Romanian books first requires some additional information on this category of books and on the history of the printing press and typographies in the three Romanian countries of the 17th century: Transylvania, Moldova and Wallachia.

Correspondence written in Romanian dates before manuscripts transcribed in the same language begin circulating. For the latter, a certain level of language stylization is required and that can only be attained by employing writing for daily needs and commercial transactions.

In this respect, it is worth mentioning that in the 1495 financial accounts of Sibiu, a town in Transylvania, there is a mention of a priest by the name of Pătru who worked in Brașov and was employed by the administration of Sibiu for his proficient writing skills in the Romanian language. Moreover, the letter of Neacşu dated 1521 and addressed to Johann Benkner, a dignitary/functionary14 from Brașov, is masterfully penned. The employment of the Romanian language in writing is facilitated by the increasing number of daily needs, while Slavonic is still the language used in official documents and in conducting the Orthodox Liturgy.

All of the above are characteristic of the 17th century and unveil the struggles and disputes on using the Romanian Cyrillic alphabet in favor of Slavonic in writing and printing. This is a time when the printing of religious books...

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