“Please get me some wild roses”
This tiny note tells a short but charming story. Count Philips (d. 1508), who held court near the river Rhine, loved flowers. So much so that he wrote his servant this note to bring him some from Heidelberg. “But make sure,” he added to the note from 31 May 1486, “to also include some that are not yet flowering.” It is a small miracle that we still have this paper slip, which is the equivalent of our yellow sticky note. How many post-it notes do we keep after use? The answer to that question shows you right away why this 527-year-old request for wild roses is so special.
The history of the note’s survival is equally remarkable. It is part of a big bundle of 132 paper slips that emerged from a single bookbinding during my Book History course. As I briefly explained in an earlier blog, they were used by a bookbinder in the sixteenth century to form the paper boards of a 1577-print. Recycling is what we are dealing with. I have never seen more than five such fragments coming out of a single binding, so this discovery came as quite a shock. A big pile of stowaways were staring at me and my students. Dozens of paper voices talking through each other, demanding to be heard.
This tiny slip is one of my favourites. It brings us as close to real medieval society as you can get: it tells the story of what happened “on the ground”. I can just imagine the servant jumping on his horse in search for wild roses that would please his lord. Perhaps he himself was as charmed by the rosy request as I am. I like to think that this is so - and that this is the reason the note was kept.
Pic: Leiden, Bibliotheca Thysiana, Inv. nr. 2200 H. Photography Giulio Menna (@sexycodicology). Read more about medieval binding material in this blog I wrote.
One of my first Tumblrs that most of you will not have seen. The hidden archive dug up in my class is currently studied in a few student papers. It turns out to be more important than was originally anticipated. Since this Tumblr I wrote a larger blog about the archive as a whole: http://medievalfragments.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/a-hidden-medieval-archive-surfaces/