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Digging Deeper: Making Manuscripts

Tuesday, January 20, 2015 to Friday, March 6, 2015
Course topic: 

Digging Deeper Promo


Digging Deeper: Making Manuscripts introduces you to the study of early text technologies, focusing principally on the medieval book, but covering other textual objects, too, such as scrolls and diplomata. The Digging Deeper team of scholars from Stanford and Cambridge reveals how to investigate manuscripts within repository settings and through online resources, what to look out for when confronted with manuscript images, and how to exploit all the information a manuscript offers. You will learn major characteristics of book production, the terms and methods used by manuscript historians to describe the book, and key themes in early book history. Where were manuscripts made and who made them? What kinds of materials were used and what can those materials tell us? What kinds of texts were created and copied during these centuries? How did multilingualism matter in the medieval period? In pursuing these questions, you will study some of the most significant and beautiful books held by the university libraries of Cambridge and Stanford.

Digging Deeper is a six-week course, with each week featuring filmed sequences of experts with manuscripts, reading assignments, a short transcription, and self-testing quizzes. Assignments will help you develop a basic knowledge of how to access manuscripts in person and online, skills in codicology (the study of the medieval book and the physical make-up of manuscripts), palaeography (the describing and analysis of medieval scripts), and transcription (the reading and interpretation of writing in manuscripts). Participants who finish the course will earn a Stanford Statement of Accomplishment.

Digging Deeper: Making Manuscripts will be followed in Spring with a course focusing on the interpretation and preservation of manuscripts in the digital era.


There are no prerequisites for this course.


Professor Elaine Treharne

Elaine Treharne is Roberta Bowman Denning Professor of Humanities at Stanford University. She has published over fifty articles and twenty-six books on Old and Middle English, on Manuscript Studies, and, latterly, on Text Technologies. Her most recent book is Living Through Conquest: The Politics of Early English, 1020 to 1220(OUP, 2012). She is currently completing the Oxford Very Short Introduction to Medieval Literature(OUP, 2015) and The Phenomenal Book, 600 to 1200. Elaine is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, of the Royal Historical Society, and a Trustee of the English Association. She has spent all her career thrilled by the connection between past and present that emerges from the study of old books and their users.

Dr. Benjamin Albritton

Benjamin Albritton is the Digital Manuscripts Program Manager at Stanford University Libraries. He oversees a number of digital manuscript projects, includingParker Library on the Web, Stanford University's digitized medieval manuscripts, and a number of projects devoted to interoperability and improving access to manuscript images for pedagogical and research purposes. His research interests include the intersection of words and music in the fourteenth century, primarily in the monophonic works of Guillaume de Machaut; the uses of digital medieval resources in scholarly communication; and transmission models in the later Middle Ages.

Dr. Suzanne Paul

Suzanne Paul has a PhD in Medieval Studies and is the Medieval Manuscripts Specialist at Cambridge University Library, responsible for looking after a collection of several thousand items ranging from fragments of ancient papyri to illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. While a big part of her role is cataloguing, describing and researching manuscripts, what she enjoys the most is sharing her love of manuscripts with others through digitization projects, teaching and outreach.

Dr. Orietta Da Rold

Orietta Da Rold is a University Lecturer, Fellow at St John’s College, University of Cambridge and a member of the Center for Material Texts. Her research interests are in medieval literature and texts c. 1100-1500, Chaucer, and the digital humanities. In particular, she works on the social and cultural contexts of the circulation and transmission of medieval texts and books, and researches the codicology and palaeography of medieval manuscripts, on which she has published numerous articles and books. She is the editor of several volumes, including A Digital Facsimile of Cambridge, University Library, MS Dd.4.24 of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (HRI Online, 2013), and is currently working on a project on the significance of paper in late medieval books.

Jonathan Quick

Jonathan Quick is a PhD student in the English Department at Stanford University. He studies medieval literature with a particular emphasis on Anglo-Saxon poetry. His other research interests include the history of the book, history of the English language, and the digital humanities. Jonathan leads course research and management on Digging Deeper.


Do I need to buy a textbook?

Reading materials will be provided as part of the course, as the weeks progress. If you would like to look at a book before the start of the course, there are a good number of introductory volumes on medieval books and illuminated manuscripts that are widely available through bookshops and online vendors.