Stratigraphy of books and manuscripts

Opening of Bodleian Library MS Barlow 33, fol. 28v,29r, showing a prayer added by the owner and decorative borders
Bodleian Library MS Barlow 33, fol. 28v, 29r, showing a prayer for indulgence added by a user before the beginning of the penitential psalms.

A large class of 50 heard Kathryn Rudy demonstrate the methods and results of a stratigraphic analysis* of manuscripts, through which the history of how the textual and pictorial units were assembled, and the layers of evidence of use, yield a picture of the manuscript’s role within reading practices.

Dr Rudy showed examples of 14th and 15th-century devotional manuscripts from the Netherlands now in Bodleian Library collections. Through a close examination of the manuscripts, participants looked at evidence of how texts and miniature paintings had been assembled or added, either on behalf of or by the owner, and marks left by the handling of leaves or the kissing of images.

Dr Rudy’s class begins a season on additions and annotations, which will extend to the stratigraphy of printed books with Will Poole’s and Jackie Steadall’s examination of scholarly reading in the early modern period (masterclasses, 2:15 pm in the Pitt Rivers Lecture Room, 29 October and 26 November) and Nathalie Ferrand’s Besterman Lecture on Rousseau’s annotations (Convocation House, 8 November, 5:15 pm).

Participants in the class
Professor of Palaeography Daniel Wakelin, Kathryn Rudy, Nigel Palmer, and Martin Kauffmann (Bodleian Library) examining a manuscript in the class.

*A term coined by Peter Gumbert, see ‘Codicological Units: Towards a Terminology for the Stratigraphy of the Non-Homogeneous Codex’, Segno e Testo 2 (2004)

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