M-20. Seminar in Western Codicology

M. Michèle Mulchahey

The principles, bibliography, and methodology of the analysis and description of Western medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. The course includes a survey of the development of the physical features of manuscript books and practical work by the students on particular points. Applicants must have considerable background in the historical humanities, and a good basic knowledge of Latin and Latin paleography is needed.

Traditional research on manuscripts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance is based principally on the study of script and illumination. Without neglecting these important aspects, this course will show that there are other – and sometimes more conclusive – means to approach the codex and to uncover the information it conveys. The course will deal with manuscript materials, structure, layout, script and decoration, showing how to investigate and describe these features.

It will consist of both lecture and work sessions. The first will be based on a discussion of PowerPoint slides, photographs and the specialized literature. During work sessions, students will view manuscript fragments and complete manuscripts in the possession of the Rare Book School and UVA libraries and perform tasks based on these and on printed catalogs of manuscripts. Students will have the opportunity to study many more manuscripts during the field trip to one or more libraries in Washington, DC.

In their personal statements, applicants are required to describe their degree of training in Latin and paleography.

Course History

M. Michèle Mulchahey teaches this course, as "Seminar in Western Codicology."
Albert Derolez taught this course many times during this period, as "Introduction to Western Codicology."

Course Resources

  • Advance Reading List
  • Evaluations for this course:

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M. Michèle Mulchahey

M. Michèle Mulchahey

M. Michèle Mulchahey currently holds the Leonard E. Boyle Chair in Manuscript Studies at the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, and is the Director of PIMS’ new Diploma Programme in Manuscript Studies that was inaugurated at the American Academy in Rome in 2011. Michèle is herself a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, as well as of Harvard’s Villa I Tatti in Florence. In her research she has made a study of the medieval Dominican order and its schools and the techniques used by the friars to communicate their learning, and has received research grants from agencies such as the National Endowment for the Humanities, from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in of Canada, and from the Carnegie Trust in the U.K. for her work. Her book “First the bow is bent in study…” Dominican Education Before 1350 has become a touchstone in the field; her current projects include a study of Dante’s teacher, Remigio de’ Girolami, as revealed through some newly-discovered manuscript survivals, and another on Jacopo Passavanti, the charismatic Dominican preacher at Santa Maria Novella in Florence, who also commissioned some of the most famous artwork produced for the convent.

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