codex, prologue

Service book from Zagreb
Book of psalms from Hungary
Biblia Sacra
Lectionarium with initials 1
Lectionarium with initials 2

A handwritten book from the Middle Ages, which was sometimes richly decorated. Most of them contains more than one work. They have no cover page or page of contents; the colophon might have played a similar role, which - if any - informed the reader about the work itself, the person of the copier and the place and date of copying. Most of the codices are religious ceremony books of different types. Among the secular ones are the philosophical and legal works from the Middle Ages. Historiographic works were also quite popular.



A Greek word that means 'prologue', in Latin (prooemium, exordium) it also meant 'beginning, start of something'. Usually it is the introductory part of narrative, sometimes dramatic texts with the aim of gaining the sympathy of the audience (captatio benevolentiae: structurally it has the same role as the arenga of the charters). In the prologue the author usually referred to his earlier works, literary horizon, and his sources, methods, the meaning and aim of his work. He tried to protect himself from possible attacks of the critics, and modestly mentioned his own stylistic and literary performance. It often gave a possibility to show off with knowledge of antiquity. Schematic medieval prologues took over the stylistic means of antique rhetorics, they used a lot of literary commonplaces, but in case of good stylists they showed a kind of independence. The emergence of prologues written in a personal tone signify the high standards of literature. The first Hungarian work which meets the demands of these requirements is King Stephen's smaller legend.