Erik Kwakkel to hold the 2014 E. A. Lowe Lectures in Corpus Christi College, Oxford

The Triennial E. A. Lowe Lectures in Paleography are given in memory of Elias Avery Lowe, a noted Paleographer and Honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College from 1954 to his death in 1969. Previous lecturers have included N. G. Wilson, A. C. de la Mare, Anthony Grafton and Michael Lapidge. The most recent series was in 2011, when David Ganz spoke on “Latin Manuscript Books Prior to the Ninth Century: Ways of Using Codices Latini Antiquiores”.

The Lowe Lectures 2014: The Birth of Gothic Script 

The 2014 Lowe Lectures are concerned with the birth of Gothic Textualis, the dominant European book script from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century. Gothic script evolved from Caroline Minuscule, which was used from the late-eighth to the late-eleventh century. The three lectures analyze the transitional script that was in use between 1075 and 1225, when the transformation from Caroline to Gothic script took place. Based on a quantitative study of dated manuscripts from across Europe the lectures address three major themes in the emergence of Gothic script: the speed and trajectory of its evolution; the regional variety observed in manuscripts of the period; and how Gothic characteristics became adopted by individual scribes. The lectures ultimately show how the development of a medieval script can be measured in a quantifiable manner.

Lecture 1: The Evolution from Caroline Minuscule to Gothic Textualis (Friday 21 February, 2014)

The first lecture focuses on script traits that changed in appearance over the course of the period 1075-1225. It introduces a quantitative palaeographical method with which the changing shape of letters may be mapped in both temporal and geographical space. This lecture focuses exclusively on the first dynamic – that is development over time. It shows how the transition from Caroline Minuscule to Gothic Textualis did not happen at a steady pace, but that it occurred in ‘waves’ followed by periods of stagnation. The lecture also argues that Gothic Textualis was fully developed much later than traditionally assumed.

Lecture 2: Regional Variety (Tuesday 25 February, 2014)

The second lecture is concerned with the geographical variety observed in the shift from Caroline Minuscule to Gothic Textualis. The quantitative method introduced in the first lecture clearly demonstrates how in some regions script changed rapidly, while in others new features were adopted at a very slow pace. In addition to identifying these regions, this lecture will determine a geographical area where the main features of Gothic script were practiced broadly for the first time. The lecture will introduce the notion of ‘Gothic weight’, which measures to what extent individual scribes and those from the same region have adopted new script features.

Lecture 3: Adopting a New Script  (Thursday 27 February, 2014)

What sparked individual scribes to diverge from Caroline Minuscule, seeking new ways of executing letters? How does a new script become established among individual scribes or groups of scribes sharing a scriptorium? How does a new palaeographical feature turn from idiosyncrasy into norm? These are some of the queries that are prompted by the adoption of Gothic script features among European scribes. Based on a number of case studies this third lecture will assess to what extent individual scribes changed their handwriting throughout their ‘oeuvre’, which will prove crucial for determining how the new script traveled through time and space.

All lectures at 5 pm, in the MBI Al-Jaber Auditorium, Corpus Christi College, Oxford

Last Modified: 17-01-2014