I was initially reluctant to talk about the work on the manuscript here. Generally I don’t talk about special collections findings, as those books are owned by the institutions. Still, the Folger book is entirely online, so the contents are available to the public already.
At this stage, the three of us are just getting started – figuring out what our roles will be, dividing up the manuscript amongst us for transcription, etc. One tricky aspect is that the manuscript is in secretary hand, a script from that time which looks very much unlike our modern letters. I took a crash course in it, finding the Scottish Handwriting site to be the most useful. Many sites show secretary hand with beautifully flowing letters, but this one shows them crabbed and hard to read, as much of the manuscript is.
To get up to speed, I decided to start in the middle of my section with the “Offices of the Spirits.” Those who have seen the Goetia will be familiar with this sort of list of spirits, giving their appearance, their offices in the infernal hierarchy, and their uses to the magician. There are some clear similarities between the two, but the Folger manuscript has eighty-three spirits, and I’m convinced that many of the better-known names from the Goetia are not included. Most notable are two spirits, Oberion and Mycom, who are the lords of the fairies. I’m not sure whether this means that the fairies are ruled by demons, or if these two are lumped in as “spirits” in general.
At any rate, I am accomplishing what I set out to do when I started with the Offices: working on a section with a clearly defined format and short entries with redundant information, so word variants, common phrases, etc., can be easily identified before I move on to the bulk of the work. I’m quite happy with how it’s going so far, though there’s quite a bit of work involved.