Stability and Change in Medieval Manuscripts: Two Masterclasses (January 30, 2014)

University Library Leiden, Vossiuszaal

The Vidi-project ‘Turning Over a New Leaf’ invites MA and PhD-students from all disciplines, as well as interested faculty, to participate in two (free) masterclasses about manuscripts made in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Both classes are devoted to medieval manuscripts as material objects and both focus on the relationship between their physical features and the cultural-historical context in which they were produced.

During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, manuscript culture underwent great changes, both on the Continent and in England. As the ‘Turning Over a New Leaf’ project is showing in a growing number of papers and publications, new scripts and layouts were developed, while readers acquired new ways of reading and commenting upon texts. However, in spite of the significant changes that may be identified, there is also stability. For example, the new (pregothic) script that evolved over the period 1075-1225 retained a lot of features from its older Carolingian sibling, while navigational aids that became standard in this period were in part spin-offs from older models.

Focusing on the notions of change and stability, these two masterclasses explore in what way and under what social and cultural circumstances manuscripts changed or remained the same. The morning session focuses on the retention of older Anglo-Saxon features in manuscripts made in England after the Norman Conquest (1066), while the afternoon session assesses how Caroline minuscule evolved into Gothic textualis, between 1050 and 1250. The latter masterclass will also address how scripts may be studied in a quantified manner, a necessity to study developments in medieval handwriting.

Program (abstracts below):

10 am - 12:30 pm: Elaine Treharne (Stanford), The Ideology English Vernacular Manuscripts, 1020-1220

12:30 - 1:30 pm: Lunch break

1:30 - 4:00 pm: Erik Kwakkel (Leiden), Stability and Change in the Transitional Script of the Long Twelfth Century

4:00 - 5:00 pm: Demonstration of manuscripts pertaining to the lectures

This event is open to any PhD or MA-student from any institution, including those abroad. Interested faculty are also invited to come. The classes will be given in English and are sponsored by the Onderzoeksschool Mediëvistiek. If you wish to attend these (free) masterclasses, please RSVP to by 28 January, 2014.

For those interested, there is a (free) colloquium on vernacular manuscripts the following day (31 January, 2014). For more information click here.


Elaine Treharne (Stanford), The Ideology of English Vernacular Manuscripts, 1020-1220

This session will focus specifically on the English vernacular manuscript in relation to Latin and French manuscript production from 1020 to 1200, paying particular attention to the retention of English letter forms and layout, even after the Norman Conquest. The important questions of how, why and in what circumstances the identity of English was maintained, will be asked. The broader concerns are critical cultural and social issues: how much does the choice of script matter for the producers of a manuscript? Does the insistence on the retention of insular forms suggest a visual resistance to the subordination of (the) English. The masterclass will also introduce some Welsh manuscripts, together with a few examples of contemporary diplomata, for comparison.

Erik Kwakkel (Leiden), Stability and Change in the Transitional Script of the Long Twelfth Century

This session explores the transition from Carolingian minuscule to Gothic textualis, which is arguably one of the most significant developments in the medieval script system. It will show how some key features of Caroline evolved into a new, Gothic presentation over the course of the period of 1050-1250. These changes included the shape of letters, abbreviations and ligatures, but also the general impression of the script, which became more compressed. This masterclass will track the developments in a ‘scientific’ manner by quantifying the changes observed in the handwriting of scribes. The aim of the class is therefore twofold: to show how one script becomes another; and to demonstrate how such an evolution may be captured and described in objective terms.

Last Modified: 16-12-2013