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Rare Book School at the University of Virginia

H-20. The Book in the Manuscript Era

Barbara A. Shailor

An introduction to the MS book in the West from late antiquity to the beginning of the c16. Topics include: the coming of the codex form, and its materials and construction; the monastic book; national scripts (Insular, Visigothic, Beneventan, &c.) and Carolingian developments; changes in handwriting and decorative styles; the Bible trade; the rise of the universities, the trade in non-religious books and the pecia system; the growth of literacy and the production of vernacular manuscripts; book illumination and new fashions in deluxe MSS; the Renaissance revival of the classical tradition; the transition from manuscript to printed book; manuscript books as cultural artifacts. This is the first course in a three-part sequence that includes The Printed Book in the West to 1800 (H-30) and The Printed Book in the West since 1800 (H-40).

This course is intended for those who seek a general overview of the MS book in Europe. The course is aimed at beginners, but the instructor will assume that students have a general knowledge of European history during the period covered. Some knowledge of Latin or a modern foreign language would be useful, but not necessary.

In their personal statement, applicants should describe the nature of their developing interest in the history of the book and (if relevant) explain briefly the causes of this interest and the purposes to which they propose to put the knowledge gained from the course.

Course Resources

Course History


Barbara A. Shailor teaches this course for the first time.