Rare Book School

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Rare Book School
Preliminary Reading List

Introduction to Paleography, 800-1500

Consuelo Dutschke

Preliminary Advices

Please purchase the following books, because you will refer to them and use them for all your future work with medieval manuscripts; it isn't necessary to bring either one to the RBS class, however. Reading them beforehand is not necessary, except for the assigned sections of The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books. If you wish, you may bring a laptop, although the short evening homework assignments will be handed out on paper; a CD with the course-pack will be distributed onthe first day of class.


  1. Derolez, Albert. The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books, from the Twelfth to the Early Sixteenth Century (Cambridge Studies in Palaeography and Codicology 9). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  2. Please read the Introduction, pp. 1-27, and The Manuscript Book in the late Middle Ages, pp. 28-45, before attending class.
  3. Cappelli, Adriano. Lexicon abbreviaturarum. Dizionario di abbreviature latine ed italiane, 6th ed. (Milan: Hoepli, 1987; frequently reprinted).
  4. The first edition was printed in 1899, and it's still the sine qua non. (1) If you were in Italy, you could buy a copy of Cappelli for €26 (ca. $36, but out of print at this writing); high shipping costs (ca €40) discourage any thought of purchasing the book by mail directly from the publisher. (2) You can get a copy from Blackwell’s online for ca. Ł35 to £47 (ca. $55 to $75) plus shipping. (3) If you use one of the international book finding services (such as ABEbooks), you'll find a range of prices and selling points (many in Europe) with prices ranging from $45-200. A second-hand copy is fine if it's in viable physical condition. (4) You may purchase an enlarged edition of Cappelli's text on CD from Dr. Olaf Pluta (University of Bochum, Germany) for €99 (ca. $137); click here for an explanation of this online version (you can get a free 30-day trial subscription; permanent acess to the database costs €99, i.e. ca. $137); note that in Pluta's electronic edition the abbreviations are presented in a highly formalized late gothic script, which falsifies their actual appearnace in manuscripts (the script in the printed Capelli is closer to reality). (5) There is an online version of Cappelli available for free via the University of Cologne's Incunable project. I recommend, however, waiting until our RBS class is over before spending money, unless you are certain that you want a printed book to work from.

    There is an English translation of Cappelli's introduction, published as The Elements of Abbreviation in Medieval Latin Paelography, translated by Davin Himann and Richard Kay (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Libraries, 1982); but there is no particular need to go out of your way to aquire it unless you want it for your own library.

  5. John, James J. “Latin Paleography,” in James M. Powell, Medieval Studies: an Introduction (Syracuse University Press, 1976), pp. 1-68. In the small range of 68 pages, this article offers a balanced and intense outline of the full chronological range of paleography of manuscripts in the Latin alphabet; you'll want to read it, and re-read it, and then read it again; we won't discuss it in class, but it is the one short monograph in English that covers it all.
  6. A Latin-English dictionary, even a relatively small one.