Week One (3 –7 June 2024)

Introduction to the Cataloguing of Medieval Manuscripts | James Freeman

One Day Course: Tuesday 4 June 2024

How – indeed, why – do we describe medieval manuscripts? How have these conventions evolved? And what functions might a catalogue entry fulfil? 

This course will help you to establish good practice in identifying, gathering, interpreting and sorting physical and other evidence contained in manuscripts, enabling you to undertake medieval manuscripts research in a systematic and methodical manner. It will take you through the process of compiling a description step-by-step, using manuscripts from Senate House Library. You will study the various ways in which information about manuscripts has been presented, and learn how to read and comprehend published catalogues and the work of other manuscripts researchers. It will encourage you to develop a critical practice in thinking about the way in which information about medieval manuscripts is categorised and arranged, how cataloguing as a discipline has evolved, and what a description might tell you not only about a manuscript but about the methodology of its cataloguer. 

More information is available to view on the course page.

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Introduction to the Codicology of Medieval Manuscripts | James Freeman

One Day Course: Monday 3 June 2024

How were medieval books made?  What material evidence of these processes do manuscripts contain? And how can this knowledge enhance our understanding of medieval cultural and intellectual life? 

This course will take you from cow to codex, from membrane to manuscript, equipping you with all the skills you need to begin independent research into medieval manuscripts. It will cover each stage of the book production process, exploring how component materials were made, how texts were copied and decoration planned and executed, and how books were bound, with illustrative examples drawn from a variety of manuscript libraries. You will learn about variations in practice in medieval Europe, as well as cutting-edge scientific techniques that are enabling scholars to shed new light on old books. You will also learn to identify and interpret evidence of production in surviving books, through hands-on exercises with medieval manuscripts from the collection at Senate House Library.

More information is available to view on the course page.

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Introduction to Palaeography and Manuscript Studies | Katherine Hindley and Laura Cleaver

Five Day Course: 3-7 June 2024

This course introduces students to key skills for the study of medieval manuscripts, from the making of parchment to reading text and imagery. The course is designed for beginners, with no previous experience or language skills. It is suitable for undergraduate and graduate students, those working in libraries and archives, and anyone with an interest in medieval books.   

By the end of this course students should:  

  • Be able to describe the structure and contents of a range of manuscript material using appropriate vocabulary.  
  • Be able to transcribe text from a manuscript.  
  • Demonstrate awareness of choices made in the process of transcribing text and relevant debates about editing processes.  
  • Be aware of a range of resources for working with manuscripts and able to apply these appropriately in their work.  
  • Be ready to proceed to more specialist study. 

More information is available to view on the course page.

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TEI and the Description of Medieval Manuscripts | James Freeman

One Day Course: Friday 7 June 2024

How do you describe a medieval manuscript in the digital age? What impact has digitisation had upon the methodology of manuscript description? And how might these new approaches prompt new questions and research directions?  

This course will introduce you to TEI, the Text Encoding Initiative, and the main outlines of the TEI manuscript description module. Through practical exercises – converting existing descriptions into TEI or encoding information directly from manuscripts – you will learn how to use the building blocks of TEI language in structuring and encoding a manuscript description, and discover how TEI affects how information is recorded and categorised. The course will prompt you to consider the strengths and weaknesses of a standardised, digital approach to these unique, analogue artefacts, helping you to develop a reflective practice as a manuscript scholar, and integrate digital approaches in your own studies. 

More information is available to view on the course page.

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Early Modern English Palaeography | Nigel Ramsay

One Day Course: Wednesday 5 June 2024


Deciphering the handwriting of the past is just the first step in the process of presenting it for others to read. This course combines palaeography (the decipherment of Early Modern handwriting) with diplomatic (studying the form that past documents took) and the process of editorial intervention that enables us to present our transcription in a form that makes it accessible to others in a satisfactory scholarly way. The act of transcribing a document is always an act of editing: this day will aim to make that act a planned exercise that achieves the transformation in the best way possible.

More information is available to view on the course page .

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Greek Palaeography | Laura Franco

Two Day Course: 6-7 June 2024

This is an introductory course in Greek Palaeography, consisting of two parts:

Part I is devoted to a brief survey of the earlier history of the Greek script covering evidence from early inscriptions, through majuscule papyri to manuscripts of the Byzantine period up to the ninth century, including the first examples of Greek minuscule.  

Part II concentrates on the Greek minuscule from the ninth to the 15th century and the first printed books.

The development of the Greek script will be examined with relation to political events and cultural movements which shaped it through the centuries. Participants will learn how to transcribe a text from a facsimile of a Greek manuscript and examine basic codicological and palaeographical aspects, including the layout of the text, the use of ligatures, nomina sacra, abbreviations and colophons.

More information is available to view on the course page .

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Transcribing and Editing Manuscripts: Palaeography after 1700 | Wim Van Mierlo

One Day Course: Thursday 6 June 2024

This course will introduce students to the basic characteristics of ‘modern' manuscripts produced from 1700 onwards. This includes documents that belong to the composition and transmission of literary, philosophical and historical (notebooks, rough drafts, fair copies, etc.) as well as letters, diaries and other private documents. In this course, you will learn about changes in handwriting from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, about the conventions of writing in this period, and more generally about commonly-used methods of transcription and the principles of editing manuscripts.  This in-depth study of theoretical and methodological issues will be rounded off with practical exercises in which you will try your hand at transcribing a variety of materials. 

More information is available to view on the course page.

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Books & Documents in Late Medieval Spain: a Palaeographical Introduction | Dr Manuel Muñoz García

One Day Course: Friday 7 June 2024

This course introduces the key scripts and varieties found in books and documents in late medieval Spain (13th-15th centuries). After the triumph of the Gothic scripts, medieval Spain developed particular styles and varieties, used in books and/or documents, creating a rich palaeographical canvas. We will explore not only the characteristics of each script but also the relationship between scripts and other aspects such as document types and formality, with opportunities to work with manuscript images.

By the end of this course you will be able to identify key script features of a number of Spanish Gothic varieties, and will be familiar with the basics of the evolution of script in Spain in the Late Middle Ages.

More information is available to view on the course page.

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Codicology and Cataloguing of Medieval Manuscripts: a hands-on workshop | James Freeman & Peter Kidd

Two Day Course: 5-6 June 2024

This course provides the opportunity to begin the process of independent manuscript study, analysis and description in a supported environment. You will put into practice the theoretical skills that you have learned, in the process of compiling a detailed description of medieval manuscripts. You will work on both digital facsimiles and manuscripts from the collection at Senate House Library. 

This course is aimed primarily at those who have attended one or both of the codicology courses, although it is also open to students who have had prior training in codicology but lack direct experience with manuscripts.  

More information is available to view on the course page.

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Hebrew Manuscripts and Their Readers in the Renaissance (1300-1650) | Dr Hanna Gentili

This course provides a general introduction to the variety of Hebrew manuscript production with a particular focus on the Renaissance (1300-1650). Students will learn about different geographical and intellectual contexts and will gain practical skills to orient themselves in the world of Renaissance Hebrew manuscripts and their readers.  

The course will include:  

  • Introduction to various genres of manuscript production (Genizah documents, Biblical and Rabbinic literature, philosophical and kabbalistic manuscripts, responsa, pinkassim and communal documents, marriage contracts…).  
  • Basic introduction to Hebrew paleography (scripts, abbreviations, colophons, contexts of production). 
  • The variety of Jewish languages: examples including Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian and Yiddish.  
  • Commissioners, owners and general notes on provenance.  
  • Latin-Hebrew exchanges: philosophical and kabbalistic translations, the role of Christian Hebraists in manuscript production and study.  
  • Text/Image relationship: micrography, illuminations, scientific and kabbalistic diagrams.  
  • Available digital resources for the study of Hebrew manuscripts, identifying and editing Hebrew texts.  

More information is available to view on the course page.

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Illustrated Vernacular Manuscripts in Quattrocento Florence | Dr Federico Botana

Two Day Course: 3-4 June 2024

This course will provide an introduction to illustrated manuscripts produced by non-professional scribes in fifteenth-century Florence. For the affluent merchant class, copying texts was a means of self-education. Together with the increasing availability of paper, this was one of the factors that facilitated the diffusion of the 'best-sellers' of the Italian Renaissance before the introduction of printing. The examples that will be discussed are outstanding testimonies to the literary and visual culture of Florentines in the Quattrocento. 

The course will focus on a selection of manuscripts, including some of the most successful Italian vernacular texts of the Italian Renaissance: Aesop's Fables, the Fior di virtù (a moral treatise incorporating a bestiary), and La sfera (a poem on the configuration of the Cosmos and the world). Students will gain skills for: 

  • researching evidence of ownership in manuscripts; 
  • transcribing late-medieval Italian merchant script; 
  • understanding the transmission of texts and illustrations in the late Middle Ages. 

More information is available to view on the course page.

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Insular Script in Britain from Alfred the Great to the Norman Conquest | Dr Helen McKee

One Day Course: Tuesday 4 June 2024

This course (which would be ideal for someone who has taken an introductory course on Insular palaeography and wants to broaden their knowledge) covers developments in Insular script from the end of the first Viking Age up to the Norman Conquest. We will start by looking at the state of writing in England during the reign of Alfred, and proceed through the various forms of Insular script which developed during the tenth and eleventh centuries (principally Square minuscule and Vernacular minuscule). Welsh and Cornish scripts of this period – which influenced and were influenced by English script – will also be covered. By the end of the course, students should be familiar with the relevant script-types and with their historical and cultural background. 

There will be frequent opportunities to practise reading Insular script, and specialist letter-forms and abbreviations will be explained as they occur.

More information is available to view on the course page.

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Introduction to the Insular System of Scripts to A.D. 600-900 | Dr Helen McKee

One Day Course: Monday 3 June 2024

This course will introduce students to the earliest scripts of Britain and Ireland, from the first surviving manuscripts up to the end of the first Viking Age. Students will study the remarkable, uniquely flexible Insular script-system; they will learn to identify the different grades of script, as well as the range of features which tell us that a manuscript was produced in the Insular world.

There will be frequent opportunities to practice reading Insular script (abbreviations and specialist letter-forms will be explained as they occur) and we will look at some of the most important scribes and manuscripts of this period.

More information is available to view on the course page.

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Manorial Court Rolls, 13th - 17th centuries | Christopher Whittick

Two Day Course: 3-4 June 2024

This course will introduce students to manorial court rolls, which record dealings with land held by customary tenure and the enforcement of social regulations throughout England and Wales. Almost all the materials are in Latin and would be distributed to students well in advance of the course. 

In the course of the week students will gain a knowledge of the nature and scope of the business of manorial courts, the formulas employed to record transactions and the evolution of manorial record-keeping, and acquire the skills to read and interpret the records which these courts produced. We will also learn about the various methods used to date manorial courts, and examine entries produced during the brief experiment in the use of English between 1653 and 1660. 

More information is available to view on the course page.

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Medieval Account Rolls and Documents, 13th - 15th Centuries | Christopher Whittick

Two Day Course: 5-6 June 2024

This course will introduce students to manorial accounting documents, both during and after the period of direct management of manorial demesnes. We will examine accounts produced by both secular and monastic owners, study the charge and discharge method of accounting, and look in detail at each of the standard sections into which manorial account rolls are divided, including grange and stock accounts. The course will look at crop yields, and briefly study the use that has been made of them by economic and climate historians. 

In the course of the week students will gain a knowledge of the nature and scope of medieval accounting practice, what can be expected to be found in the standard sections of a manorial account, and acquire the skills to read and interpret the records themselves. 

Almost all the materials are in Latin and would be distributed to students well in advance of the course. 

More information is available to view on the course page.

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The Wonder of Working with Fragments | Dr David Rundle

One Day Course: Friday 7 June 2024

One of the most exciting developments of manuscript studies in recent years has been the increasing interest in fragments. We know that many handwritten books survive complete from the medieval world and we also know that a larger number have disappeared — fragments provide a third category of partial survivals, often hidden within bindings of printed books.

Their evidential potential is only now being recognized and this course will provide an introduction to fragment studies (sometimes known as ‘fragmentology’). It will give an overview of developments but also practical advice on how to work with them, to record them and to make the most of what information they can provide.  

More information is available to view on the course page.

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Week Two (10 – 14 June 2024)

Editing Latin Texts from Manuscripts | Daniel Hadas

Five-day course, Monday 5 to Friday 9 June

In this class, students will be introduced to the methods and problems of editing  a Latin text transmitted through medieval manuscripts. The focus of the class will be a practical exercise, in which we will work with online or in situ manuscripts of a Latin text. Student will learn how to collate a manuscript, and how to use those collations towards creating a critical edition of the text. The text chosen will be one for which these in no adequate modern edition.

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The Italian Book: From Manuscript to Print | Laura Nuvoloni & Paolo Sachet

Five-day course, Monday 10 to 14 June

This course aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the transformation of books in Italy from Late Antiquity to the Enlightenment. It will trace the transition from the peak of manuscript production to the establishment of books printed through a hand press as the chief means of communication, assessing the impact this epochal shift had on different genres, from the classics to scientific and popular literature. 

More information is available to view on the course page.

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