Palæography and Codicology: an introduction to manuscript studies - MT888

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
7 15 (7.5)







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).


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Contact hours: 33

Method of assessment

Assessment will be by three elements:
1. Transcriptions, (best two marks used: weighted equally at 20% each, total of 40%).
2. In-class test (60 Min) – 20%
3. A term paper (2,500 words) (40%).

Indicative reading

B. Bischoff, Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1990), trans. D. Ó Cróinín and D. Ganz.
E. M. Thompson, An Introduction to Greek and Latin Palaeography (Oxford, 1912).
M. P. Brown, A Guide to Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600 (London, 1990).
J. Roberts, Guide to Scripts Used in English Writings up to 1500 (London, 2006).
G. E. Dawson and L. Yeandle, Elizabethan Handwriting 1500-1650, rev. ed. (Chichester, 1981).

Students will also be directed to online resources, in particular digitised manuscripts at, eg, the British Library and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana websites.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

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.

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