Different types of inscriptions are found in medieval manuscripts – Slavic and otherwise. The scribal colophon (the who-what-where-when and sometimes why or for whom) is usually located at the end of the manuscript in the hand of a scribe who copied the main text. It is often somehow set apart from the main text – perhaps physically on a separate page or written in smaller letters. It may be written in the scribe’s colloquial language, which also serves to distinguish it from the text. In the margins of manuscripts one may find glosses, corrections, rubrics, pen testings, communicative inscriptions (i.e., meaningful statements unrelated to the main text), penmanship exercises, and cryptograms.

Slavic manuscript No. 34 of St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mt. Sinai, is a 13th-century collection of patristic homilies, sayings, and lives of the holy fathers. There are pen testings, for example, on the inside back cover, and a Greek inscription on folia 42v-43r. On f. 36v is a later (communicative) inscription that describes the seven stages of intoxication:


black and white mage of the inscription in the margin on folio 36 verso of Sinai Slavic manuscript number 36


Translation: “Digion says: When a man sits down at a feast, he drinks a cup to health, and a second to merriment, and a third to repletion, and fourth to madness, and a fifth to a demonic state, and a sixth to a bitter death, and a seventh to eternal torture that will not end.”

Image source: Sinai.34, f. 36v – from microfilm in the HRL.