Disputationes Metaphysicae

Jean-Pascal Pouzet (Limoges) Describing codicological structures in western medieval manuscripts (Seminar in Palaeography and Manuscript Studies, 21 October 2013)

More than an introduction to the structure of manuscripts, Jean-Pascal Pouzet presented a series of suggestions with regard to the layers of evidence to be examined to determine the structure of the text block currently present in any manuscript volume, and the nature, or possibly the changing nature, of portions of the manuscript through time from its creation to the present day. In effect he asked the class to view codicology as the philology of the material text and to take the study of codicology as one that precedes, as well as needing to work in parallel with, understanding of the palaeographical, art historical, and textual studies that also derive from the manuscript evidence.

Taking his motto from M.R. James, ‘See books for yourselves,’ Pouzet displayed in the class the manuscripts MS Bodley 801, MS Digby 177, MS Douce 137  and MS e Musaeo 62 to demonstrate in each case the different ways that fascicles and booklets had been joined to produce different types of collections within these volumes.

Pouzet emphasized the importance of exact terminology in describing codicological  and textual units, and in particular attempted to refine the concepts of the booklet and the fascicle.

‘Fascicle’ he distinguished as a unit which is materially marked out and possibly intellectually self-contained, but designed to exist within a particular collection rather than independently. The ‘booklet’ is something Pouzet, developing the term as used by Pamela Robinson, Ralph Hanna, Eric Kwakkel [whose Lowe Lectures will be heard at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in Trinity Term 2014] and Alexandra Gillespie, identified as a physically and intellectually self-contained unit. It is then the movement of these parts through time, from their creation to later movements into and out of collections, changing the structural forms of manuscript books, that defines the type of collection, that is, the way the manuscript book was formed and a suggestion of the cultural intention behind the formation.

(From my own point of view, this discussion is reminiscent of similar attention that is given in the cataloguing of printed materials to describing and distinguishing the following aspects: the intellectual work; the matrix from which letters and images are printed; and the composite item which constitutes the edition; not to mention the individual item as held in a library; see a related discussion deriving from counting the catalogue records of broadside ballads.)


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