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Introduction to Manuscript Studies 1st Edition
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"A volume of broad, interdisciplinary appeal. . . . This volume would be an excellent classroom resource . . . . This beautifully illustrated, skillfully organized resource is an ideal survey of the field, valuable for presenting information critical to new students and veteran scholars, for teaching the history and scope of the medieval manuscript. A very worthwhile addition to collections in medieval studies, art history, English literature, or archival studies."―Choice
"Introduction to Manuscript Studies is for beginners and seasoned scholars alike, offering details―such as that the best quills are plucked in the springtime from the left wings of live geese―that will delight everyone. Bringing together codicology, paleography, material culture, and a bit of art history as well, this gorgeous, comprehensive, and charming book should be on the syllabus of every course in medieval studies."―Barbara H. Rosenwein, Loyola University Chicago
"Impressive in both its comprehensive range and depth of detail and even more remarkable for the clarity of its writing and illustration, this long-needed volume will serve as an admirable introduction for students from the many disciplines that study medieval manuscripts. It is also likely to become a treasured reference tool for experienced scholars."―Richard K. Emmerson, Florida State University
About the Author
Raymond Clemens is Associate Professor of History at Illinois State University and former Acting Director of the Newberry Library's Center for Renaissance Studies. Timothy Graham is Director of the Institute for Medieval Studies and Associate Professor of History at the University of New Mexico. He is the editor of The Recovery of Old English: Anglo-Saxon Studies in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries and coeditor of Medieval Art: Recent Perspectives.
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The book is printed in an oversized format, with heavy semi-gloss paper and extensive use of color illustrations and photos, making the book itself a modern day equivalent of the medieval variant. The author's content is so extensive and wide ranging that it has lead a number of authorities to state that the book should be required reading for anyone studying the period. A quick review of the text will likely convince anyone to agree. It is unusual to see so comprehensive a text be also reproduced in such a stunningly gorgeous manner. The book is on par with the quality seen in the books published in France by its national library (the Bibliothèque Nationale de France ), and if one has ever seen such books, that is quite a claim to make. That it is available for under $40 is simply astounding.
The content is as accessible as it is detailed. The author makes good use of explanations when introducing terms, and does not overwhelm the reader with abstract and arcane language, yet still maintains a scholarly tone throughout the volume. Although the physical size and weight of the book can make the book a bit difficult to hold, the book is such a delight with which to interact that it does not matter. The color illustrations and photos are first rate, and the page layout and typeface both pleasant and readable.
Of special interest is a section on damaged manuscripts. This section covers an entire range of potential types of damage that can occur to old manuscripts, and even illustrates many types of damage with representative full color photos. Some before/after photos are supplied for cases where damage is treated by modern methods. This is a very unique aspect of the book.
Finally, the bibliography is truly extensive, a wealth of information for anyone undertaking study in this area, and is arguably worth the price of the volume alone.
A rarity among books today, this startlingly well written book executed with the highest levels of print and page quality makes "Introduction to Manuscript Studies" an unusual and beautiful volume. Five stars for content, five stars for reproductions, five stars for print and page quality, and an easy five stars for price. Combine it with two other gorgeous books, "A History of Illuminated Manuscripts" by de Hamel and "The British Library Guide to Manuscript Illumination" (also by de Hamel) to make a wonderful trio of books on medieval manuscripts.
A History of Illuminated Manuscripts
The British Library Guide to Manuscript Illumination: History and Techniques (British Library Guides)
Most people bit by the urge to know more about these seductive works will have to accept that direct access, for the most part, just doesn't exist except for the studied and credentialed few. Thankfully, plenty of fascinating vicarious resources exist. One of these, which serves as an absolutely great starting point for anyone, academic or general reader, is the large sized, and beautiful in its own right, "Introduction to Manuscript Studies." Its pages, slathered with full color manuscript reproductions from multiple eras, will easily satiate those seeking illuminated eye candy. Not only that, it contains voluminous information on the medium that supports these works. So prepare for plenty of brain candy also. Part One focuses on making the medieval manuscript, with emphasis on works of parchment. Everything from how pigments were made to how long to soak and stretch a skin to watermarks, applying gold and silver leaf to assembling and storing the manuscript and the fascinating ways scribes worked in this somewhat unforgiving medium receive more than cursory coverage. That many scribes made many mistakes should surprise no one, but how they compensated or corrected for these may surprise many readers. One section even discusses the evolution from monastic to private libraries to the earliest lending libraries such as the The Sorbonne in the 13th century. The need for multiple copies of texts for university study was at least partially addressed by the "pecia system" which produced books more rapidly and with significantly less ornamentation. Also, pictures of manuscripts damaged by corrosive pigments, such as verdigris, demonstrate the complexity of creating and preserving manuscripts throughout time. Not to mention that, given the arduous creation of parchment, many older texts were used in the production of newer texts. So some of the oldest known manuscripts were found intermingled with more recently created ones.
Part Two discusses reading the medieval manuscript. This doesn't mean lessons in Latin or Middle French, but instead highlighting the more common historical anomalies, such as anachronistic orthographies, ligatures, punctuation and abbreviations. The punctuation systems discussed, known as "distinctiones" and "positurae," look deceptively modern in some places but nearly alien in others. They may have originated as aids for oral presentation. Medieval abbreviations will probably look even more incomprehensible to modern readers and a handy table of some of the more common ones, though by no means exhaustive, serves as a good starting point. Of course direct reading or forensic analysis of manuscripts involves visiting a library. The book outlines some of the arduous steps often required for direct access. Those who just want to read words now have a vast online repository to explore. But this won't suit codicologists, who may have to justify their needs for directly handling or analyzing historical manuscripts. Given the ages of these works, many have seen damage, sometimes horrific. An entire chapter discusses working with damaged manuscripts from fires, floods, mold and vandalism to infestations, even cockroach feces, to unstable pigments or poorly produced inks or even past failed attempts at conservation. Sometimes it seems amazing that any of these works survived at all. Tracing how they survived, or who owned them at certain times also provides a challenge. Clues often exist in the works themselves either through direct or indirect dating and other factors discussed in a chapter on provenance.
One of the more exciting sections presents a historical panorama of scripts. Here a reproduction of a manuscript page gets presented along with a transcription of the first dozen or so lines of text. A table including "distinctive letter forms and ligatures" really helps identify unfamiliar, and sometimes almsot incomprehensible, text. The survey begins with "Luxeuil Miniscule," probably the most difficult to read and progresses through "Insular Miniscule," "Caroline Miniscule," "Gothic Quadrata Bookhand," "Bastard Anglicana Script," "Lettre Bâtarde," "Italian Humanistic Cursive" and many others. The texts are not translated, just transcribed, though anyone studying these text will likely have knowledge of Latin or other pre-modern languages (though such knowledge is by no means required for reading this book, but it will highten the experience). This section allows newcomers to actually practice and experience reading these texts.
Part Three provides a survey of the genres of many manuscripts, many of which contain numerous sub-genres. Many of course relate to Biblical and liturgical texts and Gospel Canons, of which calendars played an important role. The reading of medieval calendars is discussed, but newcomers should prepare for quite a workout in interpreting the "kalends," "nones" and "ides" of Roman and medieval calendars, which differ drastically from modern methods. Subsequent chapters also cover Books of Hours (a subject in and of itself), Charters and Cartularies (including papal bulls), Maps and Rolls and scrolls. A final appendix provides a guide to choosing dictionaries of medieval Latin, also not an easy task given the almost endless variations.
"Introduction to Manuscript Studies" more than adequately covers the basics of this amazing field of study. Its clear language and glossary also make it accessible to nearly anyone interested in this topic. Along the way a history of the transfer of knowledge, along with the fragility of knowledge itself, and the source of many modern usages from Latin, unfolds. Our current electronic world is still less than a century old. Prior to that, and especially prior to mass printing, the preservation of knowledge required considerable effort. And even though historically most manuscripts were available only to a literate elite, this doesn't diminish their importance, beauty or purpose even for moderns whose ancestors may not have even been able to read these works. That these works are now accessible, albeit indirectly, demonstrates the power of the words these original works contained and changing societal attitudes towards literacy. Lastly, many can appreciate these works simply as exemplars of amazing artistic productions regardless of the words within. Their value persists on many levels and this incredible introductory book brings this medium completely to life.