Palaeography and Codicology: an introduction to manuscript studies - MEMS8880

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2022 to 2023
Autumn Term 7 15 (7.5) checkmark-circle


Our cultural heritage is defined by the legacy of manuscript artefacts. Those books and documents carry with them multiple pieces of information — more so than any printed book — that help decipher not just the meaning of their texts but also of their purpose and history. This module introduces you to the long history of that culture and, in particular, will give you the technical tools to make use of these sources. You will learn to read a variety of scripts and to appreciate the cultural contexts in which they were used (Latin palaeography, so called because the scripts — whatever the language — derive from the practices of ancient Rome); you will also study the book as object, understanding the elements of its make-up and what they can tell us about the society in which it was made and used (codicology).


Contact hours

Contact hours: 47
Private Study: 103
Total: 150 hours

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Assessment will be by four elements:

1. Transcriptions (two marks, weighted equally at 10% each, total of 20%)
2. Manuscript Description (20%)
3. Exam (2 hr) (20%)
4. A term paper (2,500 words) (40%)

Reassessment methods
100% coursework

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices. The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages:

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Appreciate how the physical form of the book and its script encodes information about its purpose, production and use.
2. Demonstrate awareness of the fundamental stages in the history of Latin palaeography from antiquity to the early modern period.
3. Show competence in transcribing texts in a variety of scripts.
4. Show competence in identifying and analysing scripts.
5. Appreciate the fundamentals of providing a technical description of manuscript products.
6. Demonstrate an understanding of the status of manuscripts in the medieval and post-medieval world.

The intended generic learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Have confidence in their mastery of the fundamental study skill of identifying and reading multiple scripts
2. Show the critical acumen to organise information by date and place through the use of palaeographical knowledge
3. Appreciate that the materiality of any written artefact provides an important primary source open to individual research
4. Recognise the methods of reasoning involved in making a palaeographical identification
5. Show enhanced skills of analysis achieved through managing their own learning in a supportive environment
6. Demonstrate mastery of the essential palaeographical and codicology vocabulary.
7. Show close acquaintance with the specific requirements of presenting palaeographical and codicological scholarship.


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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