Before digital technology, before the invention of the printing press, books were written, ornamented, and illuminated by hand, with unsurpassed artistry. This seminar, set in Europe during the Middle Ages asks what it was like to live at a time when every book was costly and unique, the product of significant manual labor. As we come to know significant styles and works, we will consider scribes and illuminators, patrons and collectors, and discuss the economics of book production and the practice of reading in the age before print. Study of such topics as the lives of scribes in different eras (from monks and nuns to professionals trying to make a living wage) will shed light on cultural shifts over time. The investigation of buyers of manuscripts, including everyone from university students who needed texts for study to collectors who amassed lavishly illustrated manuscripts (old as well as new) will reveal much about the status of the book. This course provides a vivid introduction to medieval life and culture. It fulfills the departmental seminar requirement. D. 2
Students from any discipline are welcome.