The scriptorium of Dominican nuns on the Insula Leporum: textual exercises on vernacular theology and piety in the late medieval Hungary (1510-1530)

The project aims at the analysis of the transmission of pious and scholastic knowledge by the scriptors of the royal nunnery named on the Insula Leporum (Island of Rabbits, now Margitsziget) in Buda. At present, the knowledge about the beginnings of vernacular literacy in late medieval Hungary is deeply connected to the scriptorium of this monastery: there are around 48-50 mss. produced in vernacular from before 1526, and 8-10 of these belonged to the named monastery (The numbers vary because of the changing integrity of the codices - binding/rebinding, and also because of the presence of two manuscripts of a secular aristocratic donator in the library of the Dominican nuns at Insula Leporum). It is the only place to which a relatively great number of existing vernacular manuscripts can be safely retraced in medieval Hungary, and where the work of an independent scriptorium can be reconstructed. At least four female scribes (three of them known by name: Lea Ráskay, Márta Sövényházi, Kató Legéndy) can be individuated in the given period, all of whom show a personal scribal style (eg. in rubrication) and a distinct predilection for certain types of texts. Examined will be the role of the literacy and the scribal activity of the nuns at three levels:

  • selection of texts: what are the texts translated? / whether they were copied from a source intended for a male audience, or the translation was produced directly for the nuns?
  • vernacular devotion and theology: the presence of current devotional themes (blood of Christ; virgin Mary; methodical meditation; fragments of visionary literature; death dance; prayers specific to Dominicans, eg. St Mechtilde) and theological subject (transsubstantiation, immaculate conception)
  • comparative aspect: lessons drawn from parallels: female scribes, and libraries of (preferably Dominican) nuns in the East Central European area