Stars in the Margins (Update)

This isn’t the big blogpost I’ve been meaning to put up for ages: instead it’s something I would have posted to the forum normally, but since the forum’s had a few hiccups lately I’ll just make a quick post to share it here.

I found the marginalia in this MS quite similar to the marginal stars in the Voynich manuscript’s Quire 20. I don’t know if the star-with-a-tail in the margin of manuscripts is a common occurrence in medieval medical/pharma books, but I’ve never come across such an example before outside of the Voynich “recipe” section:

capture-decran-203
Glasgow UL Ms Hunter 135, f 163v, featuring “star on a string” marginalia.

The MS is a collection of medical recipes, and this particular section is a copy of Arderne’s Practica Chirurgiae. It is slightly too late for the Voynich, although very little is known (England, 16thC, with many later additions), as the various hands who composed and annotated the text are anonymous. A detailed description of Ms. Hunter 135 is available on the Glasgow library’s website.

capture-decran-209
MS Hunter 135, f158v
capture-decran-214
MS Hunter 135, f162r

Are the stars drawn by the original scribes or added by a later owner? Of course I can’t help but wonder if these stars refer to something in the text here or if they are a kind of decorative highlight for a special section of text, especially the first one with its tail.

Apparently this version of Arderne’s work is a much less ornate copy of another Glasgow MS: Hunter 251, which I unfortunately haven’t been able to find fully digitized yet, so I cannot check if there are marginal stars in the other one too.

Are marginal stars with tails present elsewhere? Personally these are the first I’ve found. Let me know in the comments!

Update: I found another, earlier MS from this collection (the Malaga Corpus) Hunter Ms. 185, which is also worth mentioning here: although it is devoid of stars, it does feature a list of recipes, each with a marginal squiggle which brings to mind the Voynich star tails. The initial f’s also form an almost gallows-like shape. Two examples:

capture-decran-215
Hunter Ms 185, England, 15th C, f64v, recipes. See marginal squiggle-tails and initial gallows-like f’s
capture-decran-216
Hunter Ms 185, England 15th C: more marginal tail-like squiggles near recipes