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Digging Deeper: The Form and Function of Manuscripts

Faculty: Professor Elaine Treharne (Stanford), Dr Benjamin Albritton (Stanford),
Dr Orietta Da Rold (Cambridge), Dr Suzanne Paul (Cambridge)

Digging Deeper: The Form and Function of Manuscripts introduces you to the way medieval manuscripts are interpreted, conserved, and disseminated today. The Digging Deeper team of scholars from Stanford and Cambridge shows how to analyze both the form and function of manuscripts, the methods by which they are conserved, and the digital means that are transforming the field of manuscript studies. We will look at the development of music, move beyond the European tradition to study non-Western manuscripts, and see how digital methods are allowing for new inquiry and posing new problems. In pursuing these studies, we will scrutinize some of the most significant and beautiful books held by the university libraries of Cambridge and Stanford.

This is a five-week course, with each week featuring filmed sequences of experts with manuscripts, reading assignments and resources, a short transcription, and self-test quizzes. Assignments will help you further your knowledge of how to access manuscripts in person and online, skills in codicology (the study of the medieval book and the physical make-up of manuscripts), palaeography (the describing and analysis of medieval scripts), and transcription (the reading and interpretation of writing in manuscripts). Participants who finish the course will earn a Stanford Statement of Accomplishment.

Digging Deeper: The Form and Function of Manuscripts builds upon the Winter 2015 course Digging Deeper: Making Manuscripts, but that class is not a prerequisite to this course. You can access the first course at any point by registering for it at the same site as you have for this course (


·          There will be a sequence of films to watch each week, accompanied by an article to read.

·          Short, multiple-choice quizzes will allow you to assess your own progress weekly.

·          A five-line piece of manuscript transcription will help you build your skills each week in reading medieval manuscripts.

Participants who finish the course will earn a Stanford Statement of Accomplishment.

Some recommended reading

The following books are widely available through libraries and booksellers, and don’t forget to try online for used copies at AbeBooks:

Michelle P. Brown, A Guide to Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600 (London, Toronto: British Library Publications/University of Toronto Press, 1990; 2nd ed. 1993)

Michelle P. Brown, The British Library Guide to Writing and Scripts (London, Toronto: British Library Publications, 1998)

Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham, An Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007)

Christopher de Hamel, Scribes and Illuminators (London, Toronto: British Library Publications, 1992)

M. B. Parkes, English Cursive Book Hands 1250-1500 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969, revised repr. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008)

B. L. Ullman, Ancient Writing and its Influence (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969; repr. 1980)

Online Resources

A. Booth, Medieval Handwriting App, free for iOS devices via Apple App Store and free for Android devices via Google Play Store

A. Cappelli, Lexicon abbreviaturarum: Dizionario de Abbreviature latine ed italiane,

Getty Museum, ‘The Making of a Medieval Book',

Edward Maunde Thompson, An Introduction to Greek and Latin Palaeography,

E. Miller, ‘The Creation of a Medieval Manuscript’,

Weekly Schedule

Week 1 Scribal Practices: Text and Form
April 21, 2015
1.         Introduction
2.         The Medieval Compendium (Gg.1.1), with Dr Paul
3.         The Canterbury Tales (Dd.4.24), with Dr DaRold
4.         Introduction to Medieval Music (Gg.5.35), with Dr Albritton and Dr Paul

Week 2 Music and Liturgy
April 28, 2015
1.         Early Liturgy (Add 3389), with Dr Albritton
2.         Polyphony (Ff.1.17.1), with Dr Albritton
3.         The Dublin Troper (CUL Add 710), with Dr Albritton
4.         The Antiphonal (CUL Add 2602), with Dr Albritton and Dr Paul

Week 3 East and West: Manuscript Traditions
May 5, 2015
1.         Chinese Manuscripts with Prof Egan
2.         Arabic Manuscripts with Prof Key

Week 4: Manuscript Conservation
May 12, 2015
1.         The Ravages of Time, with Prof Treharne
2.         Conservation at Cambridge University Library, with James Bloxam and Shaun Thompson

Week 5: From Hands to Digits: Manuscripts in the Virtual World
May 19, 2015
1.         Opportunities for Digital Manuscripts, with Drs Paul and Albritton
2.         Challenges for Digital Manuscritps, with Drs Paul and Albritton
3.         How Digitization Works, with Astrid Smith
4.         Wrap-up

Course concludes May 31, 2015 at 19:00 UTC.  All work due by that point.