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Chardonnens (2012 Congress)

László Sándor Chardonnens
(English Department, Radboud University, Nijmegen)
“Dream Divination in Manuscripts and Printed Books:  Patterns of Transmission”

Abstract of Paper Presented at the 47th International Medieval Congress (Kalamazoo, 2012)
Session on “Dream Books”
Co-sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence and the Societas Magica
Organized by László Sándor Chardonnens
2012 Congress

[Published on our first website on 21 My 2012]

This paper identifies and interprets the textual collocation and material contextual setting of dream divination in the late Middle Ages and early Modernity, so as to shed light on the differences between dream divination in manuscripts and printed books.

Medieval western dream divination takes three forms.  In order of frequency, the first form is the alphabetical dream book, commonly ascribed to the Old Testament Prophet Daniel, with c. 250 text witnesses.  Alphabetical dream books provide a list of dream images and their interpretations.  The second form is the dream lunary, with c. 210 text witnesses identified so far.  Dream lunaries predict if, how and when a dream will come true, based on which one of the thirty days of the moon the dream took place.  The third form of dream divination is the mantic alphabet, commonly ascribed to the Patriarch Joseph, with c. 85 witnesses.  Mantic alphabets require the user to consult a book at random, usually a Psalter, to obtain a letter of the alphabet.  This letter, looked up in the alphabet key provided, predicts the future.

Alphabetical dream books prove the most popular research object for modern scholars, to such an extent that dream lunaries remain largely unstudied, while mantic alphabets are virtually unknown.  This scholarly bias obscures the fact that the three forms of dream divination are not isolated phenomena in their host books.  Rather, dream books, lunaries and alphabets occur in various mantic, medical and scientific contexts.  What is more, the forms of dream divination are sometimes collocated, or occur in the same books.

My paper studies the significance of these collocations and contexts, since they are probably not random but planned by medieval scribes and early printers, and are therefore meaningful.  For example, the three forms of dream divination are collocated much more closely in printed books than in manuscripts, indicating that the underlying unity of the forms of divination was more pronounced for printers, who initially published slim volumes of alphabetical dream books sometimes preceded by lunaries or followed by mantic alphabets, under the title Somnia Danielis or Somnia Danielis & Ioseph.  In manuscripts, in contrast, dream divination is usually embedded into a larger context that varies from highly miscellaneous textual collections that only have a single alphabetical dream book, to contexts that specialise in (astrological) medicine or the mantic arts, sometimes containing more than one dream book, lunary or alphabet.  The patterns of transmission in manuscript and print are the focus of this paper.

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Website Editor’s Note:

The other Abstracts of Papers presented by Dr. Chardonnens for our sponsored and co-sponsored Sessions at the Congress are posted here:
Chardonnens (2016 Congress)
Chardonnens (2015 Congress).
Chardonnens (2013 Congress).

We thank him for his expert and enthusiastic contributions to our sponsored or co-sponsored Sessions.

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Website Editor’s Note: The other Abstracts of Papers presented by Dr. Chardonnens for our sponsored or co-sponsored Sessions at the Congress are posted here:
Chardonnens (2013 Congress)
Chardonnens (2015 Congress).

We thank Dr. Chardonnens for his continuing, instructive contributions to our sponsored and co-sponsored Sessions.

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