Will Noel

H-20, The Book in the MS Era

9–13 January 2012


1)    How useful were the pre-course readings? (Leave blank if you applied and were accepted late for the course, and thus did not get the list in time.)

1: Great! I plan to read the auxiliary titles now. 2: I felt the advance readings were wholly relevant and hugely important to my preparation for the course. 3: The readings were excellent—sometimes heavy going (Clemens) but they provided a solid foundation for the course. I didn't get to the secondary list. 4: They were incredibly useful. In fact, they were vital. 5: They were very helpful though so extensive that I was unable to read everything thoroughly. 6: They were very useful and made the course much more understandable. 7: It was very helpful to have read through as much of the materials as possible. 8: Very useful. It was good to become familiar with some of the terminology and developments, even if it did not yet "stick." 9: Somewhat useful. I had trouble getting all the books from my library and the interlibrary loan did not get two of the books to me. 10: Very useful—particularly the Clemens and Graham book. 11: The readings were essential. 12: The pre-course readings were excellent. They were well-chosen for application to course content as well as for study and review after the class. They are good references in anyone's library.

2)    Were the course workbook and other materials distributed in class appropriate and useful (or will they be so in the future, after you return home)? 

1: The workbook is a gift with its great illustrations—it could only be improved by having more photos of MSS. 2: The workbook was well organized and helpful. 3: The workbook was good, but I would suggest printing an explanation of what each one illustrated actually on the page. 4: The workbook was incredibly useful. Having static examples was very important to the learning process. 5: Yes, very much so. They were all well-chosen examples of what we viewed in class. 6: Useful in class and later when appraising. 7: Yes. Perhaps a reference source for further readings would also be useful. 8: Yes. I was very pleased that the instructor took time each day to review the illustrations in the workbook. This was a perfect opportunity to review what we had learned and to fill in gaps in my notes. 9: Absolutely! The packet was so helpful—it included a syllabus, index, and illustrations. 10: Yes on both counts. 11: Yes. 12: The workbook was essential to the course. It was an excellent in-class tool as well as an after-class aid for daily review.

3)    What aspects of the course content were of the greatest interest or relevance for your purposes? Was the intellectual level of the course appropriate?

1: Intellectual level very appropriate. The generosity with which the collection was shared is notable. The course was everything I could have hoped for. 2: The codicological/paleographic aspects were of the greatest professional interest but the illumination was most resonant and enjoyable for me personally speaking. 3: I loved every aspect of the course. Actually seeing the variety of MSS that we did, and getting to handle some, was both an honor and very helpful to my goal of gaining competence in identifying MS fragments. 4: All aspects were of greatest interest, as I am new to MS books. The intellectual level of the course was perfect. 5: The opportunity to look at MSS first hand with detailed explanations by someone intimately familiar with the collection was overall the best part. I did not come in with specific purposes but this course was an excellent survey of the material. 6: The criteria that allowed for the identification and evaluation of MSS. The intellectual level was straight on. 7: The course was marvelous and WN did a great job distilling a lot of information to present it in a coherent manner. The combination of the stylistic surveys (of script, illumination, &c.) followed by hands-on sessions was great. 8: It was all relevant and of great interest to me. Perhaps the unit where I learned most, or where I have now gained a little bit more confidence, was the section on scripts. We did not try to cover them all, which helped, as that would have been overwhelming. 9: All of it! (Especially days one through three in the syllabus and the hands-on sessions.) Yes, the level was definitely appropriate. 10: Working with original books and MSS. The intellectual level was fine. 11: I enjoyed the broad coverage of the course: it was a great introduction to RBS! The course level was challenging but not overwhelming. 12: WN's depth and breadth of the topic was so wonderfully presented that everything was made relevant. It was a very intellectually stimulating course.

4)    What did you like best about the course?

1: Just as image and text work together, so did the lectures and MSS in this course. The insights—made memorable by wit and turns of phrase—matched the beauty and/or high interest level of the MSS. 2: WN. 3: See response to question number three. But also WN's wealth of knowledge and his gift of imparting technical knowledge within a historical and cultural context. His storytelling talent and sense of humor didn't hurt either. 4: WN's incredible knowledge and responsiveness to students' questions. Getting knowledge from a genius in the field is an incredible experience. 5: WN and being able to try skills he taught first hand at the end of the course by handling MSS and looking at their curatorial files. 6: That it offered exactly what it projected: an up-close, hands-on look at MSS from a world-class collection from one of the foremost experts in the field. 7: The chance to work hands-on and in-depth with illuminated MSS. I loved that day by day we learned layer upon layer of knowledge so that by the last day we could actually date and place MSS reasonably accurately. 8: 1) The teaching style. WN really teaches from the collection. It is not a lecture. We looked at book after book after book, and learned from what the MSS were telling us. It is not a lecture with some illustrations. 2) The opportunity to "test" our knowledge by examining our "own" MS at the end of each day. And the hands-on on the last day. 9: Just how many MSS we got to see and touch ourselves! Seeing reproductions of MSS is a totally different (inferior) experience than seeing them in person. 10: The knowledge and enthusiasm and teaching ability of our teacher. 11: Actually being able to interact with MSS. 12: Listening to WN tell the "stories" that went with the MSS that brought them to life and put them in context with one another.

5)    Did the instructor(s) successfully help you to acquire the information and skills that the course was intended to convey?

1–2: Yes. 3: Yes. 4: Absolutely. 5: Yes. 6: Absolutely. 7: Yes. This course is intended to provide a survey of information, and it does that well. I appreciated the focus on layers of MS production rather than strict chronology. 8: Yes I am very pleased. I still have a lot to learn, but I will be much better equipped to read and understand MSS. And to approach the occasional MS that I am cataloging. 9: Yes. I feel much more confident in identifying and understanding medieval MSS. 10: Yes. 11: Absolutely. 12: I feel that WN helped me acquire more information and skills than I ever expected to be able to assimilate in one week on the book in the MS era.

6)    Did you learn what the course description/advertisements indicated you would learn?

1–12: Yes.

7)    Did you learn what you wanted to learn in the course? Y/N

1–5: Yes. 6: Yes. Very much so. 7: Yes. I feel much more confident in looking at a MS that I know what is going on and what type of text or object it is. 8-11: Yes. 12: Yes, and then some.

8)    How do you intend to use or apply the knowledge or skills learned in this course?

1: To pursue descriptive cataloging for rare book materials, including MSS. 2: I intend to use the knowledge gained in this course to enhance and consolidate my prior knowledge of book history and to prepare me for future study of the same. 3: I will be better able to identify and describe our library's teaching collection of MS fragments that we are building into a website. 4: I intend to help my library move forward with MS collecting. I also intend to use it for further graduate work. 5: I am hoping they will be useful as I enter the job market once I graduate. I would like to work with rare books and I hope this course adds weight to my resume. 6: To improve my appraisal practice by providing clients with increased, advanced skill. 7: While the information has no immediate application in my current position, it greatly enhances my overall knowledge of the history of books and will serve me well in the special collections field. 8: See response to question number five. 9: I intend to pursue developing a rhetoric/composition course that might draw on the history of the book. I also hope to pursue a Ph.D. in that field. 10: Another brick has been added to my foundation of knowledge about the book. 12: I intend to share my knowledge with students of the book arts—undergraduates and adult learners as well as art groups.

9)    How could the course have been improved? If you have a suggestion for a new course (and—equally important—a person who could teach it), please contact the RBS Program Director.

1: Sometimes it was difficult to see a MS under discussion with many gathered around. 2: There is very little room for improvement in this course. WN is a consummate and generous teacher. 3: My only suggestion (and this is minor) is to create 'cheat sheets' for scripts and for decoration. Just a little snippet of a good example of each one. Each could have a one-line summary or callouts. 4: I truly have no issues with this course and its execution. 5: There could have been more photographs of materials in the notebook, but it was already very thorough. Particularly script examples seemed somewhat limited compared to what was shown in class. 6: I don't believe this course could be improved. It had just the right mixture of all necessary elements and was well-timed over five days. 7: The course went very smoothly considering it's the first time it was taught by WN. In the future, more thorough inclusion of some of the examples would be helpful. Also, perhaps plan the seating and viewing arrangements so that it is easier to see the MSS at least some of the time. 8: Make it two weeks (haha!). No—but there definitely could be a Part Two to this. Although perhaps I can find that in the other MS classes that RBS offers. 9: None. 10: Twelve is too large a group of students. It would be ideal to have eight, but nine would work. Often we are looking at the "Mona Lisa" between heads and that is disappointing. 11: Greater emphasis on pre-course readings. 12: For me there is nothing that needs improvement. WN put in his all, gave his all, and we received it well.

10)  If your made any trips away from your classroom, was the time devoted to this purpose well spent?

1: N/A. 2: I think the additional programming was worthwhile. 3: Yes. 4: Absolutely, the trip to the Peabody was fantastic and a good break from our usual book routine. 5: Yes. 6: N/A. 7: Optional field trips to the Peabody and the WAM digitization lab were great and well presented. Well worth the time. 8–10: N/A. 11: Yes.

11)  We are always concerned about the physical well-being both of the RBS teaching  collections and of materials owned by the Walters Art Museum. If relevant, what suggestions do you have for the improved classroom handling of such materials used in your course this week?

1: I learned how to be more careful by the example set. 2: If possible, I'm sure that allergy sufferers might appreciate a suggestion of preemptive medication when acting with books in close quarters. 3: I thought it was a good balance between protecting the MSS and still letting us see and handle them. 6: No improvements and my personal thanks to the WAM for letting me use the collection so extensively and to WN for taking so much risk with us as we handled the scripts. 7: Although I had some concerns about the handling of materials at the Peabody, this was not so at the WAM. WN very ably encouraged appropriate book-handling among the class. 9: None. 10: Fewer students would be in the best interests of the WAM, RBS and the students as a group. 12: WN taught us well—we know now how to handle this material if we did not before.

13)  Did you get your (or your institutions) money's worth? Any final or summary thoughts, or advice for other persons considering taking this course in a future year?

1: Absolutely. I wished that I had refreshed my understanding of Medieval History a little. 2: I think so! I hope my institution agrees, I would recommend the course to anyone with a serious interest in books! 3: Yes. The Road Scholar accommodations at Peabody Court Hotel were fine, but because they were closed it was a little spooky. Also, no coffee, no access to vending machines. Had I known the Peabody Court Hotel was the same price, I would have stayed there. 4: I got far more than my money's worth. This course has changed my professional path for the better and taught me more than whole semesters of graduate school. 5: Yes. This was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. 6: As usual with RBS courses I received more than my money's worth. I would take courses if twice as much was charged, but please don't! Many, many thanks. 7: Yes. Great class. I hope WN continues to offer it. It's a wonderful thing to study with a curator from his own such lovely collections. 8: Absolutely. It was a near perfect week for me. 9: Yes! 10: Most definitely! 11: WN is an amazing instructor who knows how to bring MS study to life. Great academic and professional resource. 12: I definitely got my money's worth. WN, AT and the folks at WAM were all terrific!

14)    Did your class start and end on time? If not, please explain what happened or tended to happen to cause the delays.

1: Yes. 2: It did. 3: Yes. 4: It always started and ended at the appropriate times. 5–9: Yes. 10: The teacher often forgot about the time, but no harm was done. 11: The class generally ran on time; when it didn't, it was due to the class members' enthusiasm to keep going. 12: Yes, it started and ended on time.

Number of respondents: 12





Institution gave me leave


2 (17%)


I took vacation time


1 (8%)


N/A: self-employed, retired or had the summers off


8 (67%)


I am self-employed

Work has nothing to do with RBS course


1 (8%)




Institution paid tuition


4 (33%)


Institution paid tuition ___%


0 (0%)


I paid tuition myself


8 (67%)


Exchange or barter


0 (0%)


N/A: Self-employed, retired or scholarship

0 (0%)




Institution paid housing


3 (25%)


Institution paid for ___% of housing


0 (0%)


I paid for my own housing


5 (42%)


N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home


4 (33%)





Institution paid travel


3 (25%)


Institution paid ___% of my travel


0 (0%)


I paid my own travel


5 (42%)


N/A: lived nearby


4 (33%)



There were two rare book catalogers (17%), one librarian with no rare book duties (8%), one retiree (8%), one library assistant/clerk (8%), one MLIS student (8%), one PhD student (8%), one antiquarian appraiser (8%), one retired book collector (8%), one writing teacher (8%), one book arts teacher (8%), one other (non-profit employee) (8%)