This article deals with two medieval inscriptions housed in the Manuscript Department of the National Library of Russia (NLR), St. Petersburg. One of the inscriptions is in Old English, the other in Middle English.
The Old English inscription is now only available as a copy in a modern handwritten catalogue; the original manuscript, MS Lat.O.v.I N 45, has been lost. The catalogue, written by the famous Russian paleographer Olga Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaya, covers the Western medieval manuscripts kept in the NLR. The card containing her notes on MS Lat. O.v.I N 45 is now the only witness for the inscription. Her insecurity in transcribing Anglo-Saxon script makes the interpretation of her transcription difficult. In this article I give my own transcription and interpretation of the text.
The Middle English text is an owner’s inscription in MS Lat.F.v.I. N 70, a 14th century Latin manuscript of English provenance. The inscription is cast in a poetic form. The text is an example of prosopopeia: the inanimate book is the speaker. In a superficial way the inscription resembles medieval book curses but the actual curse element is missing. There are phonological features in the inscription that suggest a Norfolk localization for the text.
Две средневековые надписи из собраний Российской Национальной Библиотеки Санкт-Петербурга
В данной статье описываются две средневековые надписи из фондов Отдела Рукописей Российской Национальной Библиотеки (РНБ) Санкт-Петербурга. Первая надпись на древнеанглийском языке, а вторая на среднеанглийском.
Древнеанглийская надпись в настоящий момент доступна лишь в копии в составе рукописного каталога, поскольку оригинальная рукопись, Lat.O.v.I. N 45, утрачена. Этот каталог, составленный знаменитым русским палеографом О.A. Добиаш-Рождественской, включает в себя описания западных рукописей в собрании РНБ. Карточка с ее заметками о рукописи Lat.O.v.I. N 45 сегодня является единственным свидетельством существования этой надписи. Неуверенность Добиаш-Рождественской при транскрипции древнеанглийского текста стала очевидно главной причиной запутанности той формы надписи, которая представлена в Корпусе Словаря Древнеанглийского Языка (Dictionary of Old English Corpus). В этой статье я предлагаю собственную транскрипцию и интерпретацию этого текста.
Среднеанглийский текст является надписью владельца рукописи Lat.F.v.I. N 70, латиноязычной рукописи английского происхождения XIV в. Надпись представляет собой стихотворение, использующее прием просопопеи, в котором речь ведется от лица книги. По жанру оно напоминает средневековые книжные проклятья, но сам элемент проклятия в нем отсутствует. Фонологические особенности текста позволяют предположить, что надпись была сделана в Норфолке.
In this article I will discuss two medieval inscriptions found in the Manuscript Department of the National Library of Russia (NLR), St. Petersburg. One of the inscriptions is only available as a copy in a modern handwritten catalogue, the original manuscript having been lost. The other one can still be studied in its original manuscript context.
2. An Old English inscription originally found in MS Lat.O.v.I N 45
[UPDATE May 31, 2012 - This section has been extensively rewritten after the publication of the present volume when I had been made aware of the 2009 version of the DOEC (Jane Roberts, p.c.) - MK]
In Olga Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaya’s handwritten card catalogue of Western medieval manuscripts in the NLR  the card describing MS Lat.O.v.I N 45, a Psalter manuscript of Anglo-Saxon origin, contains an inscription in Old English copied by Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaya at least partly in imitation of Anglo-Saxon letter-forms. For the recto side of the card, see Figure 1.
Figure 1. Recto side of the card containing Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaya’s notes on MS Lat.O.v. I N 45, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg.
This copy is now the only witness for this Old English (OE) inscription, as MS Lat.O.v.I N 45 no longer forms part of NLR’s collections. It is still mentioned as a manuscript of the Polish Załuski collection which had remained in the collections of the Leningrad Public Library after the Polish-Russian mixed commission had agreed on the manuscripts which would be returned to Poland,  and has thus only been returned later. According to the DOEC,  the manuscript has been lost.
The inscription has been included in the DOEC:
Name 8, B28.8. 1. [0001 (1)] Đeos boc wæs geal gewriten on feower wyken 7 kostede þreo & fifti syllinges.
With the exception of one word, the DOEC reading agrees with the one I had independently reached:
As can be seen, the only lexeme where the interpretation of DOEC differs from mine is the fifth word from the end: DOEC has <kostede>, while my reading is <konpede>.
I shall now discuss both interpretations, starting with the DOEC reading.
The sequence <st> is difficult to defend on paleographical grounds. The inscription has two unequivocal forms of the letter <s>: the long <s> seen in the first word Đeos and a rounded form in wæs and, twice, in syllinges. In light of this, it is very unlikely that there would be a third type of <s> in the text. In fact, the letter-form corresponding to the DOEC <s> in Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaya’s transcription looks rather like an insular <r>. There is, however, a similar letter-form in the sixth word of the sentence, there taken by the DOEC transcriber and myself to be <n>. Above this letter, there is a small superscript <n> in the transcription, obviously an addition meant to make sure that the reader of the card takes the letter to be <n>, not <r>.
The DOEC reading <t> in the sequence <st> is equally difficult to defend. The corresponding letter-form on the card can hardly be <t>, as, unlike the letter <t> in the words gewriten and fifti, it lacks an ascender with a horizontal stroke. Reading the letter on the card as <p> is unproblematic: there are similar forms of the letter <p> in the Latin words perfrui and sempiterna in the line preceding the OE sentence.
A further problem with the reading <kostede> is the semantics of the verb. OE has the verb costian, costnian, but the senses given by the DOE do not include the meaning ‘cost’ [DOE, s.v.costian, costnian Vb, wk. 2].  The required sense ‘cost’ does appear in Middle English, but only in Late Middle English texts [MED s.v. cōsten (v)]. 
The discussion of <kostede> above has already made it clear why I take the third letter to be <n>. The strongest support for this interpretation is the presence of a similar type of <n> in the preposition on. As pointed out above, the analysis of the fourth letter as <p> is unproblematic, given the parallels provided by Latin perfrui and sempiterna.
I take conpede to be a pret.ind. 3 sg. form of campian. The DOE s.v. gecampod past part. of (ge)campian, gives one instance of the perfective meaning ‘acquired, won’:
GD 3 (C) 19.221.7: Gregorius him andswarode: ne byð næfre nænig lean þæs sigores, buton hit sy mid gewinne gecampod (O gecompad) 'Gregory answered him: there is never any reward for victory unless it is acquired by fighting.'
This meaning would make sense in the context of the inscription discussed here. The only problem, but in my opinion not a serious one, is the occurrence of <n> instead of <m>: konpede, not the expected *compede. The attested spelling here can be compared to another <np> spelling seen in Or 6 [0104 (12.140.21)] Ponpeius (instead of the expected spelling of the name with <mp> found 33 times in the DOEC).
Thus, to sum up, my own interpretation and reading of the OE inscription preserved by Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaya is as follows:
Đeos Boc wæs geal gewriten on feower // wyken 7 konpede þreo 7 fifti syllinges.
‘This book was all written in four weeks and acquired fifty-three shillings.’ / ‘This book was written in its entirety in four weeks and fetched fifty-three shillings.’
If my interpretation is correct, the sentence contains two interesting, and possibly unique, statements concerning the work done in a scriptorium: first, the time used for copying the manuscript in question is given as four weeks, and then the fee received for the completed book is said to have been fifty-three shillings.
3. A Middle English owner’s inscription in MS Lat. F.v.I. N 70
MS Lat. F.v.I. N 70 in the National Library of Russia is a 14th century Latin manuscript of English provenance. The bulk of the manuscript is taken up by Pupilla oculi by John de Burgh. A note in Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaya’s handwritten card catalogue of Western medieval manuscripts  directed my attention to f. 146v of this manuscript where, according to her, there are manu diversa saec. XIV/XV inscriptiones anglicae (Card no. 685). F. 146 contains a number of Latin passages in different hands in two columns, but at the bottom of the left-hand column there are indeed two lines in Middle English (ME):
Ho so me fond er ho so me took I am //
jon Fosys Boke  ‘Whoever found me or whoever took me, I am John Foss’s book’
Figure 2. Detail from MS Lat F.v.1 N 70, f. 146v, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg.
There are signs of erasure below the first line, and <jon Fosys Boke> stands on the erasure. There is good reason to assume that originally there was a different owner’s name, written in the same beautiful Gothic hand as exhibited by the first line.
3.1 The literary form and genre
The text is cast in a poetic form, being a three-line poem with the rhyme pattern abb:
Ho so me fond
er ho so me took
I am jon Fosys Boke.
The metrical pattern is irregular: line 1 consists of four, line 2 of five, and line 3 of six syllables.
The short poetic text is an example of prosopopeia: the inanimate book is the speaker. In a rather superficial way, the text resembles medieval ‘book curses.’  The phrase ho so me took evidently refers to stealing which seems to be a staple feature of the ‘book curse’ genre. But the curse element is missing: what the poem only says that regardless of the fact whether the book is found or taken by someone, the owner is John Foss.
3.2 Phonological features of the scribble as a possible indicator of the original dialect of the text
Owing to the shortness of the inscription, it is not possible to draw far-reaching conclusions concerning the original dialect of the text. There are, however, three spellings with diagnostic value: <ho so> ‘whoever’, <fond> ‘found’ and <er> ‘or’. The last-mentioned, <er> shows a remarkable concentration in Norfolk according to LALME (see e.g. Dot Map 490, Vol. 2, p. 427), although there are scattered examples of this spelling elsewhere. The spellings <ho so> and <fond> are also possible in Norfolk (see e.g. Linguistic Profile LP 4668, LALME Vol. 3, pp. 362-3, where OR is represented by or, er, WHO by hooso, hoso, who-so and Qwo, and -AND by -and, -ond).
I would, very tentatively, suggest a Norfolk localisation for the ME text: before <jon Fosys Boke> there is certainly nothing in the phonology of the text that would militate against such an assignment. 
 Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaya, Olga A. s.a. “Sobranie raznoyazychnyh rukopisei. Katalog zapadnyh srednevekovyh rukopisei.” Handwritten card catalogue. Russian National Library [Razn. F.XVIII N 196].
 See p. 70 of Sigla codicum manuscriptorum qui olim in Bibliotheca Publica Leninopolitana exstantes nunc in Bibliotheca Universitatis Varsoviensis asservantur. Edita cura Delegationis Polonicae in mixta Polono-Sovietica Commissione Peculiari Moscoviae. Prace bibljioteczne krakowskiego koła związku bibljotekarzy polskich. Sklady Glówne: Kraków: Gebethner i Wolff; Lipsk: Otto Harrasowitz. 1928.
 I am grateful to Professor Yoko Wada for help in transcribing the ME text.
 See e.g. Arnovick, Leslie K. (2000) “’Whoso thorgh presumpcion…mysdeme hyt’: Chaucer’s poetic adaptation of the medieval ‘book curse’”. In Taavitsainen, Irma, Terttu Nevalainen, Päivi Pahta and Matti Rissanen (ed.), Placing Middle English in Context. (Topics in English Linguistics 35). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 411-24.
LALME = McIntosh, Angus – M.L. Samuels – Michael Benskin – Margaret Laing – Keith Williamson. (1986). A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English. 4 vols. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press.
 My thanks are due to Olga Bleskina and Natalia Elagina of the Manuscript Department of the NLR, St. Petersburg, for their kind help.