Nov 21, 2016

What is a Gloss? Part 1

Here's the first of a series of posts from Medieval Codes researcher Tristan Taylor:

Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Latin 7980, detail of fol. 5v.

What is a gloss? The term appears with relative ubiquity in scholarship but there is little consensus on what constitutes a gloss. Is a gloss simply a string of text that appears beyond the borders of what modern readers consider the primary text? The primary concern when defining such a term is the beginning. But where do we begin? Can we simply examine historical usage as the foundation, or should we look at the etymological roots of the term? Alternatively we can examine how scholars have labelled glosses functionally; that is, can we categorize glosses based on what value they add to a text? Another avenue of exploration still is the spatial dimensions of glosses: where do they appear on the page? To define such a ubiquitous term, we more likely need to examine all of these dimensions and explore their relations to each other.