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2 . C O M P U T U S R E L A T E D M A T E R I A L S :
2 0 . B Y R H T F E R T H ' S D I A G R A M
See below
Reproduced in:
Burrow 1986, pl. 2; Edson 1997, ill. 5.5 (91); English Romanesque Art 1066-1200,
104; Esmeijer 1978, fig. 53;Evans (M.) 1969, pl. 66; Kauffmann 1975, ill. 21; Kline
2001, fig. 1.9; Murdoch 1984, ill. 290; Singer 1917, 124; Singer and Singer 1917-1919,
fig 3; Singer and Singer 1921, fig. 2.
Related manuscripts:
Post-Conquest English Computus Manuscripts:Peterborough computus

1. Introduction, transcription and translation

2. Byrthferth's Diagram as symbolic diagram
3. The form of Byrhtferth's Diagram
4. Did the Diagram illustrate Byrhtferth's Enchiridion?
5. The Peterborough computus copy of Byrhtferth's Diagram and related

1. Introduction, transcription and translation

Byrhtferth's Diagram is probably the most famous and most frequently reproduced item
in MS 17. It is also a very complex composition, and its interpretation bristles with
historical and exegetical problems. To avoid a disproportionately long commentary, we
will limit our remarks here to a description of the Diagram, and some observations on
its relationship to the copy in the Peterborough computus and to diagrams in
Byrhtferth'sEnchiridion. A longer interpretive article is in progress.
What follows is a transcription and translation of the text surrounding Byrhtferth's
Hanc figuram edidit bryhtfer2 monachus ramesiensis coenobii de concordia
mensium atque elementorum.
Hi sunt solares \scilicet dicuntur quia secundum ipsum cursum constant/ menses qui
habent dies XXXI. Ianuarius. Martius. Maius. Iulius. Augustus. October. December.
Hi autem XXX \scilicet dies habent secundum solis cursum/ Aprilis. Iunius.
September. November. Februarius uero ab omnibus er<r>at.

Retinet hec figura XII signa et duo solstitia. atque bina equinoctia. et bisbina
tempora anni. in qua descripta sunt IIII nomina elementorum. et duodenorum
uentorum onomata. atque IIII etates hominum. Sunt insimul coniuncta<e> bis bine
littere nominis protoplasti ade;
Demonstrat enim uero quales menses lunam XXX quales XXIX habent;
(Byrhtferth, monk of Ramsey Abbey, set forth this diagram of the harmony of the
months and the elements.
These are the solar months (so called because they follow the Sun's course) which
have 31 days: January, March, May, July, August, October, December. These have
30 (that is, days according to the Sun's course): April, June, September and
November. But February deviates from them all.
This diagram contains the twelve signs and also the two equinoxes and the twice-two
seasons of the year, within which are inscribed the names of the four elements and
the designations of the twelve winds, and also the four ages of man. The twice-two
letter of the name of Adam, the first-created man, are also added.
It shows which months have a moon of 30 <days> and which a moon of 29.)
2. Byrthferth's Diagram as symbolic diagram
Diagrams, schemata and tables found in computusmanuscripts are of three basic types.
The reference table like those which precede (fols. 8r-15v) and follow (fols. 22r-27r)
the calendar in MS 17 are designed for consultation, or to manipulate data to solve a
problem. Computists also inherited a tradition of pedagogical schemata illustrating
scientific principles or providing a graphic summary of information:3 the taxonomy of
knowledge on fol. 7r is such a summary, while the drawings accompanying the
cosmographical anthology on fols. 35v-40v are essentially scientific illustrations.
Derived from pedagogical schemata, but of a higher order of complexity, and with a
different function, are symbolic diagrams in which interpenetrating systems of abstract
concepts are brought into relation through graphic organization, numerical and
geometrical symbolism, colour, and other visual strategies. Symbolic diagrams can
contain more or less assertive pictorial representations which allegorize their contents;
this diagramming iconography is one of the typical features of Carolingian and
Romanesque art.4 But the symbolic diagramin the strict sense, like the pedagogical
schema, presents contents which are primarily textual or conceptual in character. The
diagram sidesteps the normally diachronic presentation of words and concepts by
distributing them in a spatial arrangement, a diagram. This arrangement allows the
material to be compared, juxtaposed, analysed, and interpreted on many levels at once,
using a process of "visual exegesis."5 However, unlike the pedagogical schema,symbolic
diagrams are not illustrations of a parent text; rather, they are either completely
independent of, or in a kind of collegial relationship with a text. Essentially, the diagram
itself functions as a text.6
A scientific or pedagogical schema can become a symbolic diagram by the addition of an
iconic reference, or by re-orientation to a more metaphysical purpose. When Gerbert of
Aurillac wished to illustrate the different types of geometric angles, he used a
pedagogical scheme consisting of circles overlapping in various degrees. But then he
added an extra diagram, a figura composed of a number of circles, and which contained
all the possible types of angles. It had no pedagogical value; it simply satisfied a
passion for synthesis. Gerbert made the diagram, in his words, "so that all might be
seen together in one."7 Likewise at the end of the copy of De natura rerum in Oxford,
Bodleian Library Auct. F.3.14 (fol. 19v), Isidore of Seville's OT map of the world has
been transformed into a maiestas Domini, with Christ seated atop the globe and three

praying figures standing in for the three continents. In both cases, a scientific image
has become a symbolic one.
3. The form of Byrhtferth's Diagram
Byrhtferth's Diagram, like Gerbert's, was designed "so that all might be seen together in
one," and like the Auct. F.3.14 map, the organizing symbolism is that of the maiestas
Domini. The rubric announces that this figura is a harmonization of two systems: the
twelve months and the four elements. The first is represented by an 8-shaped green
band on which is inscribed the twelve signs of the zodiac, and beneath these, the month
of the year roughly corresponding to each sign, together with the number of solar days
in the month and the length of the lunation that terminates in that solar month. Within
this zodiac band is a double diamond. The outer diamond is pinned to the zodiac band
by four roundels labeled with the names of the four elements -- earth (blue), air
(cream), water (green) and fire (red) -- at the equinoctial and solstitial points. An arc
with the date of the solstice or equinox passes over each element-roundel, so
preserving the continuous flow of celestial time despite the interception of the static
quadrilateral of the sublunary elements.
Within the continuous flow of time is the unmoving world of place, represented by the
inner, blue diamond. The Greek and Latin names of the cardinal directions are inscribed
in the "bites" in the corners of the diamond. These are linked to the four elements
through the twelve winds, whose names lie inside the element roundels. Because they
are twelve in number, and pertain to the upper atmosphere, the winds belong to the
celestial realm of the outer band; but they also belong to the inner, terrestrial diamond
because they are sublunar, meteorological phenomena, and because they are classed
according to the cardinal directions. Byrhtferth compromised by grouping them in threes
according to the cardinal directions, but locating them in the outer region.8
The four elements themselves also bridge the worlds of time and of space. Each has a
pair of qualities which link it to its neighbouring elements: these are transcribed on the
bars of the inner diamond, which is particularly associated with space. But these paired
qualities serve to connect time as well as the material creation. The paired qualities are
assigned to the different seasons, and the bars on which they are inscribed form the
outer diamond. The arms of this diamond thread through a second series of four
roundels containing the name of the season, its length and the date on which it begins.
The reminder that each season covers three months carries our eye outwards to the
band of three months arching over each season-roundel. But the roundels also relate
the four seasons to the four phases of the human life cycle and its
duration: puericia lasts 14 years, adolescentia to age 28, iuuentus to age 48,
and senectus until 70 or 80.9Hanging between heaven and earth, these roundels are a
graphic statement of man's amphibious nature, linked to the heavens through the
stages of life as microcosm of celestial time, and to the earth through the name of
Adam, formed from the initial letters of the Greek names of the cardinal directions -- a
conceit already encountered in the world-map on fol. 6v. Enclosed within ADAM is an
eight-spoked wheel, resembling a sundial or horologium,10 above which is a narrow
horizontal strip containing some symbols, a fragment of Ogham or pseudo-Ogham
writing,11 and abbreviated words. These puzzling details (which incidentally are missing
from the Peterborough computus copy of the Diagram) await further research and
study. Here we will concentrate on the overall form and the explicit messages of the
None of the separate components of the Diagram is particularly unusual, yet the
Diagram as a whole bespeaks a high degree of synthetic creativity in the way in which it
superimposes four common medieval schemata: the syzygia elementorum (the
connection of the elements through their paired qualities, and their analogous
relationship to the four seasons, four humours of the body, four ages of man etc.
through these pairings),12 the rota of the zodiac,13 the rotaof the months,14 and the
windrose with its four cardinal directions.15 What binds them together is numerical

analogies, particularly the number four, a subject on which Byrhtferth himself has much
to say in his textbook oncomputus, the Enchiridion.
4. Did the Diagram illustrate Byrhtferth's Enchiridion?
Byrhtferth of Ramsey's significance to the origin and shape of MS 17 goes well beyond
the few items formally ascribed to him in this manuscript, namely this Diagram, and
theProemium on fols. 12v-13r. The unique manuscript of Byrhtferth's Enchiridion is
Bodleian Library Ashmole 328, a quarto volume written in English square minuscule of
the early 11th century, but of unknown provenance.16Illustrating Byrhtferth's text are a
number of computusreference tables, pedagogical schemata, and symbolic
diagrams.17 One of these is a rota of the months and zodiac signs, but without any
indication of the number of lunar and solar days in each month.18 Directly after
presenting this rotaByrhtferth announces, "Nu her ys gemearcod se circul e ys
zodiacus gehaten, 7 aera XII mona naman, nu wille we furor geican urh Godes
mihta" -- "Now that the circle called the zodiac and the names of the twelve months are
here written down, we wish, with the aid of God's power, to continue further").19 This
"further" addition is a second diagram in the form of a Greek cross bound by concentric
circles,20 which Byrhtferth introduces by explaining the dates of the equinoxes and
solstices and connecting them to the twelve months and the four elements.21 The
diagram, however, shows neither the months nor the elements, but rather the solstices
and equinoxes in connection with the seasons.
Byrthferth then turns to a fresh topic ("Exceptis his rebus...") and proceeds to unroll a
long chain of analogies between the twelve winds, the four seasons, the four ages of
man, the four elements and their qualities, and the four humours of the human body.
The diagram, he says, will explain it all.22Unfortunately, the diagram has been torn out
of the Ashmole manuscript, leaving only a corner.
In 1919, Charles and Dorothea Singer published Byrhtferth's Diagram as a copy of the
missing schema in the Ashmole manuscript, claiming that the Diagram fulfilled all the
requirements of Byrhtferth's introductory description.23 But does it? Byrhtferth's
introduction does not mention the months, the zodiac, the solstices or the equinoxes; in
fact, he had explicitly set these matters aside. Moreover, the Diagram mentions nothing
about the humours, a fact that the Singers overlooked to the extent of christening the
schema "Byrhtferth's Diagram of the Physical and Physiological Fours," and asserting
that it illustrated the medical treatise on fols. 1v-2v of MS 17.24 They could not avoid
noticing, however, that the Ashmole diagram was obviously rectangular, and that the
legends still legible in the fragment do not correspond to the text in MS 17, but this cast
no doubt on their "restoration." It has raised few questions since, though Lapidge and
Baker, in their new edition of theEnchiridion, are very much more cautious than
previous commentators about equating the MS 17 diagram with the Ashmole
schema.25 Caution is justified: apart from the discrepancies identified above, the
Ashmole page would not have been large enough to hold the Diagram, if the scale of
the writing on the extant stub is taken as a module.26 But the major difficulty remains
that Byrthferth's text does not permit us to look for a concordia mensium et
elementorum at this point. This concordia is the central theme of the Diagram.
Many of the analogies expressed through the Diagram are indeed discussed in
the Enchiridion, but not in the context of the missing schema; rather, they are included
in an essay on number symbolism which forms the final part of the treatise, and
particularly in the section devoted to the number four. Here Byrhtferth explicitly
describes the relationship of the elements to the seasons and the ages of man through
their paired qualities, the connection of the winds and the cardinal directions, and how
the initials of the Greek names for the cardinal directions spell the name of Adam.27 But
he mentions no diagram in connection with these. In sum, it would appear that
Byrhtferth's Diagram, like many other symbolic diagrams, stands on its own, and is not
an illustration of a particular text -- not even Byrhtferth's own.

The second distinctive aspect of the Diagram is its unusual and evocative shape. By far
the most common shape for a schema of the zodiac, months, or winds is a rota, and
almost every syzygia elementorum is a circle segmented by a four-lobed knot. Nowhere
save in Byrhtferth's Diagram are these contents presented as an elongated diamond
within an 8-shaped frame. This is the distinctive graphic framework of amaiestas
Domini, that is, the representation, generally in an eschatological context, of Christ
manifested in glory. In sum, unlike most symbolic diagrams, Byrhtferth's Diagram does
not take a pedagogical schema and fill it with religious content, but takes a religious
schema and fills it with computistical content.
5. The Peterborough computus copy of Byrhtferth's Diagram and related
Byrhtferth's diagram appears in one other place, namely in
the Peterborough computus Harley 3667 fol. 8r. On the verso of this folio is the
Peterborough copy of the mappamundifound on fol. 6r of MS 17. The Peterborough copy
of the Diagram, like its copy of the taxonomy of knowledge, is hasty and rough. It has
also not been well edited: for example, the glosses on the wind names, which Scribe A
carefully separates from their lemmata, have intruded in the Peterborough version. The
surrounding text is identical to that in MS 17 save that it does not mention Byrhtferth's
authorship. If MS 17 and the Peterborough computus share a common exemplar, and if
there is no plausible reason why the Peterborough copyist would have deliberately
omitted Byrhtferth's name, the possibility must be considered that the exemplar did not
contain Byrhtferth's name either, but that it was supplied by MS 17's scribe. But if so,
from where did they derive this information?
Only a few pages beyond the Diagram in MS 17 is theProemium of "Brihtferthi
Ramesiensis coenobii monachi," a phrase which substantially duplicates the rubric of the
Diagram. It is likely that the exemplar of the Diagram and the Proemium came to
Thorney, undoubtedly from Ramsey, between the same covers. However, the Diagram's
present position with respect to the rest of MS 17 may not reflect its position within this
exemplar. The (admittedly fragmentary) Peterborough computus puts the Diagram
directly before Abbo of Fleury's astronomica (Harley 3667 fol. 8v-10v; cf.MS 17 fols.
), which is one of the works which the Proemium claims to introduce. If MS 17's
exemplar and Peterborough's exemplar were identical or sister manuscripts, then it is
likely that MS 17's exemplar placed the Diagram between the Proemiumand Abbo's
astronomica. In that case, MS 17's scribes deliberately moved the Diagram away from
the Proemium, possibly with a view to juxtaposing the Diagram to
themappamundi,28 but they re-copied its rubric as the rubric for the Diagram. In sum,
its ascription to Byrhferth in MS 17 confirms that the Diagram was a self-contained
graphic document, not an illustration of a text. Its interpretation therefore depends on
reconstructing its meaning from internal evidence, from Byrhtferth's own writings, and
from the other materials connected to the Diagram in MS 17 and in the
Peterborough computus.
Though the Diagram is probably not an illustration to theEnchiridion, its contents are
reflected in other schemata found in that work, particularly in the final section devoted
to number symbolism.29 Byrhtferth discusses the symbolism of numbers from one to
one thousand, but it is evident that four was, in his view, the controlling number of the
cosmos. Its preeminence is bound up with the meaning of the Cross; even the
schemata in which he attempts to embody the properties of five or seven are conceived
as Greek crosses.30Four itself represented the cardinal virtues, the seasons, the
evangelists and their symbolic beasts, the letters of the names of Adam and
of Deus (Christ), the elements and their relations to the seasons and the ages of man
through their shared qualities, and the cardinal directions (whose Greek initials spell
ADAM).31 Graphically, four could be expressed through a rectangle or through a
cross.32 There are three diagrams in the Enchiridion in which Byrhtferth uses these

patterns of quaternity to order the divisions of time: two are based on the rectangle and
one on the cross within a circle.
The first diagram33 is a rectangle with the four Ember fasts inscribed in the corners
(cf. MS 17 fol. 24v). Roundels with the solstices and equinoxes in the middle of each
side form a cross within this rectangle. Only the vertical shaft of the cross is drawn,
dividing the rectangle into two small rectangles in which are inscribed the twelve
months, six and six. The central shaft and the two sides of the rectangle parallel to it
are extended downwards to form the three pillars of faith, hope and charity. Byrhtferth
has accomplished two things here: the doubled quaternity of Ember fasts and
solstices/equinoxes has formed a cross or diamond set inside a rectangle; and this
rectangle has been bought into relation with a trinity (the virtues). The trinity multiplied
by the quaternity produces twelve (the months). The virtues are by no means
irrelevant, for the Ember fasts were a penitential season. Moreover, for Byrhtferth, the
very activity of studying computus is a remedy against the vice of idleness.34
The second rectangular diagram,35 is likewise based on the solstices and equinoxes
arranged in the form of a cross within a rectangle. At the intersection of the arms of the
cross is, in fact, a cross, explicitly labeled "CRVX". Far from being a private conceit of
Byrhtferth's, this arrangement is also invoked by Honorius Augustodunensis: "Four
zodiacal signs, equidistant from one another in the form of a cross, make the solstices
and equinoxes."36 In Byrhtferth's schema, the four corners of the rectangle form two
pairs, an upper one containing the twelve months, and a lower one containing the four
cardinal virtues. The whole structure is again supported on the three pillars of faith,
hope and charity; these correspond to three arches at the top of the rectangle
containing the four elements, the four seasons, and the four ages of man. Running
through the whole diagram are the opening verses of Boethius' De consolatione
philosophiae 3, met. 9: <O> Cui [recte Qui] perpetua mundi ratione gubernas/Terrarum
celi<que> [a]sator qui tempus an euo" (O thou who ruleth the universe in order
everlasting/Maker of heaven and earth, who biddeth time...).37 In this figure, "multis
formis donisque Dei sustentata (sustained by the many beauties and gifts of
God),"38 are found all the elements of the first schema, plus a new one: God's dominion
over the world and time, a lordship that is both cosmic and moral, and whose focus in
the cross of Christ.
Finally in the cross-and-circle diagram,39 the crossing point of the solstitial and
equinoctial arms contains the names of ADAM and DEVS, likewise arranged as a cross.
As in both Byrhtferth's Diagram and the mappamundi on fol. 6r of MS 17, the Greek
names of the cardinal directions whose initials spell out ADAM are inscribed, though in
rather badly garbled form, in the angles formed by the arms of the cross. These angles
also contain the four seasons, four elements, and four ages of man. Surrounding the
cross in the form of a double ring are the twelve months and the twelve signs of the
zodiac. DEVS, as Byrhtferth explains, is the name of Christ corresponding to ADAM,
the protoplastus -- a term also encountered in the inscription around Byrhtferth's
Diagram.40But from the perspective of eschatological time, ADAM as the generic name
of mankind is also the name of Christ: "alpha Deus ante secula, Deus et Homo in fine
seculorum <omega>."41 For Byrhtferth, Christ the God-Man as lord of time permeates
the computus, and the circle of the year becomes a figure for the totality of time.42 In
the midst of his AEIOV lunar letter table (cf. MS 17 fol. 24v),43 he intrudes the name of
ADAM in the form of a cross; his text says that he has also superimposed DEVS on
ADAM, but this was omitted by the scribe of the Asmole manuscript.
These three schemata, and particularly the final one, are evidently closely related in
content to Byrhtferth's Diagram, and some of their features, notably the parallelism of
ADAM and DEVS and the apocalyptic references, must be considered as possible clues
to the meaning of the Diagram. But these schemata by no means exhaust the range of
Byrhtferth's diagramming imagination. It was Heinrich Henel who first noticed the
connection between some interesting diagrams in the
Peterborough computus manuscript and Byrhtferth's Enchiridion. His attention was

captured by a text on fol. 5v of Cotton Tiberius C. I which describes the properties of

the number twelve.44 In the Ashmole manuscript of the Enchiridion, a page has been
removed precisely at the point where Byrhtferth beginning to discuss twelve. What
remains indicates that Byrhtferth related this number to the twelve patriarchs, and that
he was particularly interested in twelve as the product of three and four -- numbers
whose sum, seven, was also symbolic of cosmic time.45 Henel argued that the text in
the Peterboroughcomputus was by Byrhtferth, and that the diagrams on fols. 5r-v of
Tiberius C.I were illustrations to the missing section of the Enchiridion.46 Certainly the
Peterborough text is very similar to other passages in Byrhtferth's treatise.
Tiberius C.I fol. 5v

Enchiridion IV,1

Duodenarius perfectus est

numerus. et in suis
partibus constat diuisus.
sicuti hec forma lucide
demonstrat. Diuiditur
autem in ternis quaternis.
Siue tria in quattuor. siue
quattuor in tria ducas.
duodenarium numerum
complent. Nam isdem
numerus ex septenarii
numeri partibus constat.
scilicet ex primo pari et
primo impari. id est ex
tribus et quattuor. Et tres
idem ad indiuiduam
trinitatem. quattuor ad
quattuor libros sancti
euangelii pertinent.
Septem uero
plenitudinem temporis
demonstrat. quia presens
uitae cursus per VII dies
uoluitur. uel quia sunt VII
dona sancti spiriti. uel
quia sunt VII columbae
naturas. Duodenarius
perfectus est propter XII
prophetas. qui geminator
numero XXIIII fiunt.
Recipit perfectionem
propter XII apostolos. qui
totum mundum
repleuerunt sacra
doctrina ueluti subiecta
explanat a parte scema.
De his sic sedulius
cecinisse fertur. Sic et
apostolici semper
duodenus honoris. Fulget
apex numero imitatus et
horas. et infra. Quattuor
hi proceres una te uoce
canentes. Tempora ceu
totidem latum sparguntur
per orbem (Carmen
Paschale 1.359-360).

Duodenarius numerus ex duorum numerorum quantitate

conficitur, ex impari uidelicet et pari, ex quaternario et
ternario. Siue enim ducas <quater> ternarium <siue ter>
quaternarium, duodecim efficiuntur. (220.278-281) <VII>
constat esse ex primo pari et primo impari, id est tribus et
quattuor; tres pertinet ad Trinitatem, quattuor ad libros
sancti Evangelii... (208.159-161) Demonstrat enimuero
plenitudinem temporis, qua septem diebus uoluitur mundus
(208.158-159). Septem sunt dona spiritus sancti (208.161162) Septem quippe naturas columbe habent
(208.173)...pertinet ad XII patriarchas (220.274).

The diagram below the text is in the typically Byrhtferthian form of a cross within a
circle.47 In the centre is Byrhtferth's synonym for DEVS-ADAM, "ALFA ." However, the
text above, which mentions the evangelists carrying their message to the whole world,
implies the presence of ADAM as the acrostic of the cardinal directions. Where the
Ashmole cross-in-circle diagram places the four seasons, this Peterborough diagram
situates the four evangelists, and the double ring of zodiac signs and months is replaced
by (a) twelve roundels containing the names of the apostles and (b) a double series of
twelve patriarchs and twelve prophets.
The diagram on the preceding page (fol. 5r) of the
Peterborough computus complements and even glosses this one. It is labelled in the
hub "ECCLESIASTICA ROTA." ADAM and the cardinal directions correspond to "ALFA ."
The four elements point outwards to the four seasons to which both the quotation from
Sedulius in the fol. 5v and the Ashmole cross-in-circle diagram compared the four
evangelists. They are physically linked to the twelve signs of the zodiac and the twelve
months, which have replaced the apostles in the roundels. Nonetheless the patriarchs
and prophets are still present, albeit a slightly different series than in the diagram on
fol. 5v. Moreover, the quotation from Sedulius in the Peterborough text continues
(1.361-363) by comparing the apostles to the twelve months, and there was a wellestablished tradition of comparing the apostles to the zodiac signs.48 The diagrams
indicate that Byrhtferth saw the months/zodiac signs and hours as interchangeable
analogies, for the sun, the symbol of Christ, moves through the day in twelve hours and
the year in twelve months.49
Further evidence that Byrhtferth saw the hours and the months as interchangeable
symbols is provided by the version of the Diagram found in the
Peterborough computus(Harley 3667 fol. 8r). Facing the Diagram on fol. 7v is another
schema. If Byrthferth made the Diagram, as well as the other schemata in the
Peterborough computus, it is more than likely that he made this one as well. Not
surprisingly, it seems to stand in the same relationship to the Diagram as the
ECCLESIASTICA ROTA and the ALFA schemata do to one another.
The diagram on fol. 7v is a rectangle formed of an outer frame and an inner field. The
outer frame corresponds to the outer ring of the ALFA schema, for it contains the
names of the twelve apostles in coloured roundels, separated by bars inscribed with the
names of the twelve patriarchs and the twelve prophets. At the corners of the inner
field, as in the ALFA figure, are the names of the four evangelists, and on the borders
of both frame and field are exactly the same verses from Sedulius as are quoted in the
text above the ALFA diagram. The connection of the apostles and prophets to the
hours is made explicit by the inscription in the upper frame: "XII HORE IN NOCTE. XII
HORE IN DIE." The proclamation of the Gospel per orbem is suggested by the names of
the twelve winds written around the four sides of the schema. These wind names,
glossed in Old English, correspond to those in Byrhtferth's Diagram.
In the middle of the inner field of the schema is a mandorla with the inscription
THRONVM ET IVDICAS EQVITATEM [cf. Psalm 9.5]." That the key word here is "throne"
is demonstrated by another inscription around the diagram's outer frame: "ALEA CELI
IN QVA SVNT NOMINA XXIIII SENIORVM" ("The lots of heaven in which are the names
of the twenty-four elders"). The allusion here is to Apocalypse 4, where the twenty-four
elders worship the Lamb seated on a throne upheld by the four mystic beasts: lion, ox,
eagle and man. It was an exegetical commonplace to identify the twenty-four elders as
the sum of the twelve apostles and the twelve patriarchs, or a combination of patriarchs
and prophets, as in Bede's Expositio Apocalypses.50 The animals, of course, were the
symbols of the evangelists. The apocalyptic iconography of Christ in glory, the maiestas
Domini, depicts him in a mandorla, a diamond, or an 8-shaped frame accompanied by
the four evangelists and/or their symbols: here that maiestas imagery is explicitly
related to time.

But the ALEA CELI rubric draws our attention to another dimension of the diagram's
form: it is rectangular like a game board, and the apostles are arranged like counters in
cells around the perimeter. The idea of a pious dicing game or board game was quite
well known in the monastic milieux of Byrhtferth's day, and there is a documented
connection between computus and game-playing (cf. commentary onCoena Cypriani fol.
4v-5r). An interesting example of a game used for monastic instruction is the "alea
euangelii" in the 11th century Irish Gospel book, Oxford Corpus Christi College
122.51 The particular connection of aleae and computus, however, is underscored by
Isidore of Seville:
Some dice-players see themselves as practicing this art, in a natural mode, as an
allegory, and conceive of it according to certain similitudes. They claim to play with
three counters because of the three divisions of time into past, present and future;
for these do not stand still, but move forward. As proof they adduce the fact that
these same paths are divided into six places because of the six ages of man, and by
three lines, because of the divisions of time. Hence, they say, the table is inscribed
with three lines.52
Mathematical "parlour tricks" are found in computusmanuscripts like British Library
Harley 3017 (fols. 152r-153v) and Paris BNF lat. 5543 (fols. 147v-148r),
and Cambridge Trinity College O.2.45 pp. 1-3 and 12-13 contain mazes, board games,
chess problems, and a riddle.
It seems more likely, however, that the alea here refers to the shape of the schema,
and not its actual function as a gaming-board. It is not a rota, but a rectangular
diagram, like the two diagrams in the Ashmole manuscript. This in not a common way
of framing a maiestas, though there is an interesting 12th century cognate in Stuttgart
Brev. 128, fol. 9v:53 Christ is seated in a mandorla from which emerge heads
symbolizing (in the words of the inscription) the "lightnings and thunders and voices"
that proceed from the throne of the Lamb (Apocalypse 4.5). The rectangular frame is
divided into cells to hold the 24 Elders (not unlike the arrangement of the Patriarchs in
the ALEA CELI), but in place of the four evangelists are four allegorical figures
representing the poles of the year (summer and winter) and the poles of the day
(darkness and light) -- another instance of the parallel between the hours of the day,
and the structure of the year into months and zodiacal signs. However, instead of
"seven lamps burning before the throne" (Apocalypse 4.5), there are seven pillars, and
Christ sits within the arch of a building. An inscription from Proverbs 9.1 ("Wisdom hath
builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars") suggests that the artist is
alluding to both the throne of the Lamb, and the Heavenly Jerusalem whose centre is
the Temple which is God himself (Apocalypse 21.22).54 The description of the Heavenly
Jerusalem in the Apocalypse also invokes a double series of twelve: twelve foundations
and twelve gates inscribed with the names of the patriarchs and the apostles
(Apocalypse 21.12, 14). On the ALEA CELI, the rectangular shape that accommodates
the mandorla is really a square, with three apostles on the each side, facing north,
south, east and west (cf. Apocalypse 21.13).Finally, the alea may be a reference to the
lots hidden in the High Priest's rational. Bede compares twelve gems on the rational to
the signs of the zodiac and the twelve months of the year, arranged in four seasons of
three months each. The entire rational symbolizes the totality of world-history.55
Byrhferth's Diagram, which faces the ALEA CELI in the Peterborough computus, is also
implicitly a maiestas Dominiwith respect to its form: an elongated diamond set within
an 8-shaped band. The pictorial formula of the maiestascrystallized in the illuminated
manuscripts of Carolingian Tours. Its classic formula was "a quadripartite cosmic
harmony scheme with a strong emphasis on the center and with an orthogonal or
diagonal system of axes.56 Christ could be framed either in a diamond or in an 8-shaped
mandorla.57The diamond as "glory" is found in Insular illumination, particularly as the
frame for a cross, formed by joining its four points.58 In representations of the fourth
chapter of the Apocalypse, the diamond became Christ's throne, supported by the four
beasts; all the cosmic and theological resonances of the number four were played out

upon this field, but particularly the four corners of the earth, to which the Gospel
message will run. The diamond represented Christ's lordship over the earth.59 The 8mandorla as a maiestas-frame refers to the vision of Ezekiel, itself the type of John's
vision in Apocalypse 4:
And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as
the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the
likeness and appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber,
as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins
even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were
the appearance of fire and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the
bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness
round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
(Ezekiel 1.26-28; Vulgate 1.26-2.1)
It is interesting to observe that in Byrhtferth's Diagram, the great inner diamond is blue
(purple in the Peterboroughcomputus), i.e. the colour of Ezekiel's sapphire throne. In
MS 17 (but not in Peterborough) the colours of the element roundels reiterate those of
the rainbow: red (fire), yellow-cream (air), green (water) and blue (earth). Gloss 16 to
Bede's De natura rerum in MS 17 also relates the four colours of the rainbow to the four
elements. In Hrabanus Maurus' commentary on Ezekiel, the two circles of the 8mandorla symbolize Christ's divine and human nature,60 or in Byrhtferth's conceit, his
identity as DEVS-ADAM, "Deus et homo in fine seculorum ."
In sum, Byrhtferth's Diagram is an elaborated elements-seasons-months-zodiacal signs
schema, framed to look like amajestas Domini. When compared to the other symbolic
diagrams in the Enchiridion and in the Peterboroughcomputus, the multiple allegories
binding this form and its cosmic content emerge. What links these allegories together
are, first, the numbers 4 and 12 (because the vision of the Majesty in the Apocalypse
invokes the four animals upholding the throne, and the 12-times-2 elders), and
secondly, the Incarnation of God as Man.

1 Also transcribed and translated in Baker and Lapidge 1995, 374.

2 Baker and Lapidge 1995, xxxi, have noted the resemblance between this phrase and
the opening line of a four-verse poem prefacing the extract from De temporum
rationeconcerning the pagina regularis on fol. 23r of MS 17:" Hanc sententiolam
uenerabilis edidit auctor/Beda sacer..." This poem in turn resembles two other verse
rubrics in MS 17, namely the one prefacing "Me legat annales" (fol. 14r) and the one
heading "Bissena mensium" on the same folio. On the basis of shared diction, Baker and
Lapidge conclude that all three were composed by Byrhtferth, to whom they also ascribe
the metrical martyrology in MS 17's calendar.
3 On scientific illustration in ancient manuscripts, seeWeitzmann 1959, ch. 1; on the
use of schemata in philosophical instruction in Late Antiquity, see Chadwick 1981,
147 sqq.
4 The definitive recent study is Khnel 2003, and her comprehensive bibliography
summarizes the prior scholarship in this field. On Romanesque art and diagramming,
seeKauffmann 1975, 45; There are also important studies of this phenomenon in the
Gothic and late medieval periods, notablySaxl 1942, esp. p. 107, Sandler 1996, Sandler
5 Esmeijer 1978, 30-31.

6 A point made with great clarity by Khnel 2003, and established by Bober 1956-1957,
81-84 and Bober 1961, 22 (re: the linear diagram of the elements on fol. 13r of MS 17)
and 27.
7 Navari 1975, 145.
8 On the antiquity of the fusion of element-diagram with cardinal directions and winds,
see Sears 1986, 15.
9 The figure for iuuentus may be a mistake for 49: it should be noted that all the
periods seem to be multiples of 7 (childhood = 2x7, adolescence = 3 x 7, youth =
(presumably) 7 x 7 and old age = 10 x 7). The addition of 80 to senectus is a reference
to Psalm 90.10.
10 Obrist 2000, 76 (noting that the 8-spoked horologium is often accompanied by
insciptions relating the spokes to both the cardinal directions and to the ages of human
life), 91 (on the cross-lines sometimes added to the spokes), 92-93 (on the ADAM
conceit and sundials).
11 Sims-Williams 1994 argues ingeniously, but not persuasively, that this quasi-Ogham
is Byrhtferth's signature.
12 See commentary on Isidore's sygygia on fol. 39v.
13 E.g. the one illustrating Macrobius, In Somnium Scipionis1.21.3 (164).
14 E.g. the one illustrating Isidore of Seville, De natura rerum 5 (p. 190 bis).
15 See commentary on windrose on fol. 40v.
16 Henel 1934, 5 sqq.; Ker 1935; Baker and Lapidge 1995, cxv-cxxi.
17 These are discussed in Semper 2004, but without reference to Byrhtferth's Diagram.
18 Illustrating Enchiridion II,1 (76-77).
19 Byrhtferth, Enchiridion I,1 (6-7).
20 Byrhtferth, Enchiridion I,1,76-77 (6).
21 Byrhtferth, Enchiridion I,1,79-98 (6-8).
22 Byrhtferth, Enchiridion I,1,99-135 (10-12).
23 Singer and Singer 1917-1919.
24 Singer and Singer 1917-1919, 50. The misconception that Byrhtferth's Diagram
illustrates the four humours continues to flourish, e.g. in Kealey 1981, 5-6, Kauffmann
1975, 104.
25 Baker and Lapidge's reconstruction (14-15) merges the design of Byrhtferth's
Diagram with the information in theEnchiridion, e.g. by introducing the humours. But
they observe (256) that the lost diagram was too small to contain all the information in
Byrhtferth's Diagram.

26 This point is raised by Lucas (R.) 1980, 184 n. 42, and byHart 1972, 107 n. 52. As
Hart accepts Henel's theory that Byrhtferth's Proemium is the epilogue of
the Enchiridion (see commentary on Proemium), he surmises that the Diagram may
have been part of this recapitulatio.
27 Byrhtferth, Enchiridion IV,1, 32-85 (198-202).
28 The connection of the Diagram to the mappamundi is assumed by Edson 1997, 9192; this connection will be a central element in my forthcoming study of the Diagram.
29 Baker and Lapidge 1995 (Introduction, section IV) reject the notion but forward
by Lucas (R.) 1980, 172 sqq. that the number symbolism section of the Enchiridion was
not part of its original plan. On Byrhtferth's global approach to number symbolism,
see Wallis 2005.
30 Byrhtferth, Enchiridion IV.1 (204-205, 210-211).
31 Byrhtferth, Enchiridion IV,1,31-85 (198-202)
32 See diagrams in Byrhtferth's Enchiridion IV,1 (200-201).
33 Illustrating Enchiridion II,1 (82-83).
34 Enchiridion I,4, 3-15 (52)
35 Illustrating Enchiridion II,1 (86-87).
36 "Aequinoctia et solstitia faciunt quattuor zodiaci signa in modum crucis aequali spatio
locata." Honorius Augustodunensis, Imago mundi 89 (113).
37 On Byrhtferth's use of Boethius, see Hart 1982, 568-569,Lapidge 1979, 114-115.
38 Enchiridion II,1 417 (86-87; translation by Baker and Lapidge).
39 Illustrating Enchiridion II,1 (76-77); cf.Burrow 1986, 15-18.
40 "Constat reuenter fulcitus iste quaternatius quattuor nominis Christi, id est D.E.V.S,
pariter et onomate protoplasti, hoc est A.D.A.<M>." ("The number four is reverently
upheld by the four letters in the name of Christ, that is, D-E-V-S, and likewise by the
name of first-born man, that is, A-D-A-M.") Enchiridion IV,1, 43-47 (200-201).
41 Enchiridion IV,1,10 (198). Cf. Aelfric, Catholic Homily 2.15 (158.287-291), on the
eating of the Paschal lamb: "In a spiritual sense we eat the Lamb's head when we
accept the divinity of Christ in our faith. Again, when we love we accept his humanity,
then we eat the Lamb's feet, for Christ is the beginning and the end, God before all
worlds, and man at the ending of this world." (trans. Swanton 1975, 95).
42 On the complex symbolism of the seasons, solstices and equinoxes in relation to
cosmic and apocalystic time, seeMaurmann-Bronder 1975.
43 Enchiridion III,2 (146-147); Cf. MS 17 fol. 24v.
44 Reproduced in Murdoch 1984, ill. 57.
45 Enchiridion IV,1,274-308 (220-222).

46 Henel 1934, 1-2, n.5; supported by Baker and Lapidge 1995, 358-359.
47 Reproduced in Murdoch 1984, ill. 57.
48 Danilou 1959; Hbner 1983; Obrist 2001, 12-15.
49 For Bede's explanation of the difference between the 12-hour "day" (i.e. daylight)
and the 24-hour astronomical day, see De temporum ratione ch. 5. Cf. Honorius
Augustodunensis, Speculum ecclesiae (PL 172.956): "Christus namque est Annus Dei
benignitatis factus particepts nostrae mortalitatis. Hujus menses sunt XII apostoli, dies
justi, horae uero fideles..." ("Christ is made the Year of the Lord's favour, the sharer of
our mortal nature. The twelve apostles are his months, his righteous days, his faithful
hours...), quoted Esmeijer 1978, 115 n. 60. Analogous passages are found in ps.Isidore Liber numerorum (PL 83. 192-193), Hrabanus, De laudibus sanctae crucis
77.14-16, and Orderic Vitalis, Ecclesiastical History book 1 (1.149 and 186).
50 Bede, Expositio Apocalypseos 279.29-33.
51 Described by Armitage 1923, 69-71. See also Rich 1976, 475 and Rich 1978, 114.
In the famous account of his conversion in Confessions 8.6.14, Augustine recalls that
when he first heard the call "Tolle, lege" he though it was the refrain of a children's
game-song. In fact, the words were inviting Augustine to play a game or sors biblica,
and the volume of Paul's epistles which Augustine opened was lying on a tabula lusoria.
52 "Quidam autem calculatores sibi videntur physiologice per allegoriam hanc artem
exercere, et sub quadam rerum similitudine fingere. Nam tribus tesseris ludere
perhibent tria saeculi tempora: praesentia, praeterita, et futura; quia non stant, sed
decurrunt. Sed et ipsas vias senariis locis distinctas propter aetates hominum ternariis
lineis propter tempora argumentatur. Inde et tabulam ternis discriptam lineis." Isidore
of Seville, Etymologiae 18.64. On calendar-related board games, see Murray 1952, 28,
53 Reproduced in Heimann 1937-1938, 271 and ill. b.
54 Wisdom's house is identified with Solomon's Temple, Aldhelm in his letter to
Acircius (64).
55 Bede, De tabernaculo 3 (112.772-113.787).
56 Esmeijer 1978, 48.
57 These frames are discussed by Meyer 1961.
58 Meyer 1961, 77; Werckmeister 1964.
59 Meyer 1961, 75-76; Esmeijer 1978, 48.
60 Hrabanus, PL 110.545; cf.Meyer 1961, 78-79.

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