Fridays, 11 January–5 April 2019, 10:00–12:00, PIMS Library palaeography room (Kelly Library, fourth floor)
Dr Andrew Dunning,
Office hours
Fridays during term, 12:00–13:00, PIMS 32

Course description

How do texts make their way from premodern authors to today’s readers? This seminar is an introduction to the methods that allow us to understand this process: palaeography, textual criticism, and codicology. You will learn to read and identify the most important forms of handwriting and abbreviations used in Latin manuscripts between the fourth and fifteenth centuries. You will also understand how the process of copying by hand changed texts as we read them today, and the fundamentals of how modern scholars create a critical edition. These skills are essential for anyone wishing to conduct original research on classical and medieval primary sources. We will consider both traditional approaches to these subjects as well as evolving digital techniques.

Suggested prerequisite: two years’ study of Latin or equivalent.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, you will be able to demonstrate your ability, at an introductory level, to:

  • Transcribe and translate Latin texts recorded in book hands between the fifth to fifteenth centuries; identify and broadly date these scripts.
  • Use the principles of textual criticism to analyse the transmission of texts and reconstruct their meaning.
  • Apply analysis of the physical structures of manuscripts, either in person or from modern catalogues, to the interpretation of primary sources.
  • Understand the relationship between premodern and digital text, applying the basic text handling techniques established through Unicode, Unix, and text editors; and using a version control system to manage changes to digital documents (with GitHub).
  • Edit and publish premodern texts in printed and online forms, using the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) guidelines to record standardized interpretations of textual elements.

In short, this course enables you to read a medieval manuscript and use it for original research in a digital context.

Course materials

This course draws on a range of materials online and in print. All books are available on reserve in the Kelly Library, and it is up to your judgement whether you wish to purchase any of the following for reference purposes.

Supporting the in-class assignments, we will read these books over the course of the term:

You will also want to familiarize yourself the following reference works on Western palaeography:

  • Bernhard Bischoff, Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and the Middle Ages, trans. Daibhm O. Cróinin and David Ganz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).
  • Michelle P. Brown, A Guide to Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990).
  • Albert Derolez, The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books: From the Twelfth to the Early Sixteenth Century, Cambridge Studies in Palaeography and Codicology 9 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

I also recommend this optional reading as a highly enjoyable general introduction to modern manuscript culture and examining medieval books:

  • Christopher de Hamel, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts (London: Lane, 2016).

You will want to make use of a dictionary for expanding abbreviations. Generations of manuscripts scholars have grown up with Cappelli’s:

  • Adriano Cappelli, Lexicon abbreviaturarum: Dizionario di abbreviature latine ed italiane, 7th ed. (Milan: Hoepli, 2011). English translation of the introduction: The Elements of Abbreviation in Medieval Latin Paleography, trans. David Heimann and Richard Kay (Lawrence: University of Kansas Libraries, 1982).

This dictionary has not changed substantially since 1929, and the University of Zurich now hosts an updated digital Cappelli. Olaf Pluta’s Abbreviationes, available through the University of Toronto subscription, offers a larger database of abbreviations. Where these fail, Marjorie Burghart’s Enigma allows you to find Latin words by counting minims (vertical strokes) in manuscripts.

This work is a convenient reference for manuscript terminology:

Finally, you’ll need some extra software on your computer to make manuscript transcription easier using the Text Encoding Initiative guidelines. I recommend the Atom text editor: see the instructions at the end of my Getting started with editing TEI XML using Atom page.