Cistercian Hand Meditations (timor/amor Dei, nocturna/diurna) – Edition by Julia Bourke

Edition by: Julia Bourke <>

Developed by: Richard Hadden

The Manuscript

Trinity College, Cambridge, MS B.15.38 is a thirteenth-century codex from the Cistercian abbey of Hailes in Gloucestershire. It is a miscellaneous collection containing mostly sermons, some erroneously attributed to Robert Grosseteste. On fols. 146v-147r and 148v-149r, four full-page illustrations show two pairs of meditations overlaid on images of two pairs of hands. The subjects of these meditations are ‘timor Dei’ and ‘amor Dei’ (fear and love of God on the left and right hands respectively, fols. 146v-147r) and a ‘meditatio nocturna’ paired with a ‘meditatio diurna’ (night and day meditations, fols. 148v-149r). In each image, the hand is subdivided by lines representing knuckles and joints, and each region is inscribed with a point of contemplation, to be counted off as the meditation progresses. Beginning in the centre of the palm, the meditator moves along each finger in turn, counting along the spaces between the joints.

The Digital Edition

The aim of this edition is to create a transcription of the text, while at the same time retaining the visual schema of the hand diagrams. In a traditional paper edition, it is difficult to fully integrate text and image. By creating this digital edition, it is hoped that image, text and translation of the hand meditations will all be displayed simultaneously, without sacrificing either legibility or visual context. The user will be able to understand clearly both the content of the meditation, and its function as a mnemonic dependent on the structure of the human hand.

This edition was encoded using oXygen. The transcription and translation were encoded as separate TEI files within a TEI corpus, with each bifolium spread marked with the surface element. Using a zoning tool created by Chris Sparks at QMUL, I created zone attributes on a number of levels – each hand is a zone, then each finger within each hand, then each segment of each finger. I marked up each finger using the paragraph element and each segment using the line element, with the relevant zone attribute. However, were I to do this process again, I would encode this differently, with division elements for each finger and segment elements for each smaller segment. Although this would not alter the underlying structure of the markup, it would be more in line with standard practice and the TEI guidelines.

View the Edition here

View the XML here