Albert Derolez

61: M-20, Introduction to Western Codicology

23-27 July 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: Very useful. I also found Clemens & Graham helpful. 2: I did most of the reading and found it to be useful background reading, although it might be helpful to assign some readings in Latin paleography, since by necessity, the course requires some facility with it. 3: The readings were a solid primer for the course: it is good to encounter things in print and then have them reiterated in class. 4: The pre-course readings were appropriate for the course and helped me understand terms that were necessary for the course. 5: Very helpful. The course assumes a certain knowledge of basic book production and paleography, so the books assigned as pre-course readings are really essential background. 6: Four books (or parts of books) which are good introductions. There might be added the volume Introduction to MS Studies (Cornell). 7: At first, I was disappointed because it seemed the lectures followed the reading very closely, making the advanced reading feel unnecessary. When I got to work with MSS, however, I quickly realized that theoretical knowledge was not the same as practical knowledge and having AD reinforce the pre-course readings was crucial to getting the most out of Special Collections. 8: The pre-course readings provided an excellent grounding in the course topic. I did not do any other preparations, but perhaps I should have. 9: I didn't do much preparation for this course but that’s only because I had recently taken a Latin paleography course.

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: Yes. The workbook—especially bibliography and MS description guide—will certainly be useful to me in the future. All were quite useful in class. 2: The workbook will be a helpful resource after I get home, especially the bibliography. 3: Absolutely! I know I will be referring back to it in days to come. 4: The workbook is a great resource and I imagine that I’ll refer to it often in the future. 5: Yes—the workbook has a lot of good diagrams and reproductions useful for in class and post course reference. 6: Also useful, but the Xerox reproductions need to be improved. 7: Very much so. The workbook will be a valuable resource for my research. 8: They were, and, as they contain illustrations and an extensive bibliography, will see heavy use in the future. 9: Yes, the workbook helped illustrate his teaching points and includes some very helpful guides I will use in the future. 10: Very useful. A great place to take notes with all sorts of useful bibliographic and practical information.

3) Have you taken one or more RBS courses before? If so, how did this course compare with your previous coursework?

1-2: No. 3: First course. 4: N/A. 5: Yes, I took XML in Action, in the summer of 2011. I loved both courses, but this one, being more book-oriented, gave me the sense of having had the “true” RBS experience. However, both courses were well worthwhile. 6: Three other courses, all informative, useful in my teaching and research, all taught on a high professional level. 7: N/A. 8: I took Introduction to Descriptive Bibliography in 2006, this was equally rigorous, but had the benefit of not having four hours of homework each night. 9: N/A. 10: No.

4)    What aspects of the course content were of the greatest interest or relevance for your purposes?

1: Everything! I now understand not only what codicology is and how to begin doing codicological research, but also some ways it has been used to advance our knowledge of MSS. 2: Handling the materials in order to practice writing a codicological description of the MS. I wish we had done more of this. 3: I found most interesting and useful the portions of the course in which we talked about just how the descriptive codicological process could allow us to get inside the mind of the scribe who was writing or assembling a book. The field trip (of course) is an excellent experience as well. 4: The professor’s explanation of material and guided, hands-on activities with the MSS in Special Collections were invaluable. 5: I am interested in being able to date and localize MSS—studying ruling and basic patterns of decoration as indicators of origin and date is something I was not previously able to do and wouldn’t have ever done were it not for this course. 6: The layout of the medieval book (codex in MS) and the organization of text and pictures was of particular interest. 7: Learning to recognize and identify quire structures, rulings, and types of script will be very useful both for my dissertation and my future book project. 8: Everything in the course will assist me in creating thorough and accurate bibliographical descriptions of MSS for my library. 9: For me, having more experience with MSS was central. Learning how to supplement my paleographical knowledge in dating, describing, and understanding a MS book were my aims and were achieved. Course content that led to this success; intro about ruling, parchment/paper, watermarks, pricing, initials, and binding. 10: Working with actual MSS!

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

1: Very much. Yes. 2: Yes, I thought the level was appropriate. I would have just liked to have had more practice with the MSS themselves. I came away with a more solid understanding of what’s involved in a codicological description and how that’s used in conjunction with the text(s) of the MS to analyze the MS as a whole. 3: Absolutely. AD is a learned man, and an excellent teacher: very patient and he seeks to empower the students to do work in codicology on their own, without the need of experts. 4: Yes. I enjoyed learning about AD’s own research to see how codicological approaches can change our understanding of MSS. I would have liked to work more on script identification, though that may be best pursued in a future RBS course! 5: It was very appropriate in terms of level. It assumed a certain background and we certainly had to prove the level of Latin we claimed in our applications, but I learned exactly what I came in to learn. 6: The course was arranged to deal with most of the main issues in the study of the book as a physical object. 7: Absolutely. AD is brilliant and enormously helpful with questions. Intellectually, it was a challenge, but not an excruciating one. 8: Absolutely! AD is immensely knowledgeable, patient, and dryly humorous. 9: See above answer to #4. Yes. 10: Yes, on both accounts. AD taught at a great pace at an introductory level. Experts and novices can all learn from this and not feel overwhelmed.

6) What did you like best about the course?

1: AD. 2: The trip to the LC was very helpful. Small class. AD was very patient. 3: LC and the excellent teaching skills of AD. RBS has a gem of a scholar and teacher. 4: The professor established a comfortable yet rigorous classroom atmosphere to optimize student’s experiences. We covered an incredible amount of information—all of which is pertinent to my work. 5: I enjoyed our fieldtrips to Special Collections and to DC (LC and Folger Shakespeare Library). Seeing books and manipulating them in situ is essential for absorbing what is otherwise abstract info. The professor’s knowledge is vast, and he is a patient teacher efficient in conveying his lessons. 6: The course was carried along and its value maintained by the erudition and good humor of the instructor. 7: Field trip to the Folger and LC. Also loved how much time we spent in Special Collections. 8: The opportunity for hands-on, close examination of MSS was invaluable. 9: Hands-on experience (I think we each held 60 MSS, at least). 10: The visit to LC. An incredible and diverse collection supplemented by a relaxed environment made for a great learning experience.

7) How could the course have been improved?

2: More time with individual MSS. I would have liked a more systematic approach to scripts in order to better identify them. 3: While nothing is perfect, the course seems fine as it is. 4: The only thing I can suggest is to provide a schedule or at least alert students to the field trip (which I really enjoyed) so that they can make childcare/animal care arrangements well in advance. 5: If we had more time. In paleography, that would be wonderful. However, I wouldn’t want to sacrifice any of the other lessons in favor of paleography, and there is a separate paleography course through RBS, so the need can be met elsewhere. 6: It would have been useful to have time set aside for questions from the audience. The tight schedule appears to have excluded extended discussion on particular points. 8: Include “knowledge of Latin paleography” in the course requirements. I have none, and it was a hindrance. 9: Perhaps having a small project either for the last day or as (not a lot) of homework, in which each person describes a MS in detail. 10: N/A.

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

1: Yes. 2: Yes, although I can no longer remember the course description. 3-10: Yes.

9)    Did you learn what you wanted to learn in the course?

1: Yes. 2: Yes, I would have liked more exposure to early medieval MSS. I know this is a problem due to their scarcity, but there are some in the Freer collection at the Smithsonian. 3: Yes. 4: Yes. I would like to know more about scripts. 5-7: Yes. 8: Yes, and more! I now have a (very) basic knowledge of Latin paleography. 9-10: Yes.

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

1: First, I plan to view microfilms and facsimiles in my own library to increase my general knowledge of source materials in my field, applying the research methods I have learned in class. Then, I hope to do extensive MS research following graduation, and thereafter. 2: I will teach some of the basic skills in a class. I will use some for my own research. 3: In the description of MSS, and in my own academic work. 4: I will apply what I learn to my dissertation. 5: I will continue to visit libraries for book culture research, and not having to rely on catalogs (often mistaken) will improve the quality of my work. I will also use book culture and codicology in my teaching. 6: In teaching and research. It’s also a basic course for a medievalist. 7: For my study of medieval MSS within my dissertation and for future work. 8: I will be providing full bibliographic descriptions and records for the medieval MSS held in my institution’s Special Collections library. 9: In the future as a Special Collections Librarian (hopefully) to describe materials and to share the information about a collection with faculty, students, and researchers. 10: To bring more attention to MSS of lesser quality and renown. As AD said, we can learn more from the valley than the peaks.

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

1: Yes. Our excursion to Washington, DC was not without minor travel issues, but it was a great success in the area that counts. We saw, what, 40 MSS in one day? It was heaven. I was especially taken with the LC, and if it is possible, I will return again for my own research. 2: Yes, although the staff at the Folger really need to lighten up. In fact, the Folger could be skipped, and the entire time spent at LC (or maybe the Smithsonian). The gentleman at LC was extremely helpful and accommodating. Thank you! 3: The Folger Library needs to lighten up: just because you don’t understand something (i.e., MSS) doesn’t mean that it is something that should be venerated and inviolate, unable to be sullied by the hands of we mere mortal students. LC is the best! Despite the comments about the Folger, the trip there was still worthwhile; if possible, I would have preferred the day to be spent in the LC. 4: I really enjoyed our trip to the LC—they have an amazing collection and the curator was very welcoming to our group. The Folger seemed more interested in preserving their MSS than allowing us to examine them. 5: It was very well spent. Peering into bindings and shining lights behind watermarks and copying flourished initials is the only way to understand the material. The Folger folks seemed nervous around us, but the LC folks were very welcoming. 6: It is always interesting to see collections in other libraries. The reception at the Folger was rather stiff and formal: at the LC open and engaging. 7: Yes. We even got extra time at the LC, which was much needed and very well spent. 8: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Closely examining some of the amazing MSS held by LC—wonderful! Folger staff, however, should have realized that we have all handled MSS and are under the supervision of an expert, and been much less concerned. 9: Yes, our field trip to DC was amazing and drove home the knowledge gained in the course and it made me even more comfortable with MSS.

12) If you attended the optional evening events (e.g., RBS Lecture, Video Night, RBS Forum, Booksellers’ Night) were they worth attending?

2: I thought the RBS Forum (the gentleman who spoke about William Wells Brown) very thought provoking. 5: I went to the typographer’s lecture and found it very interesting if not entirely related to my work. I would have loved to go to the other events but couldn’t for various reasons. 7: Paper Museum was excellent; could not attend lectures. 8: I did not attend—after a full day of group work, this introvert needed to retreat. 9: Video Night: Very enjoyable. Not well attended, but that made it better because it wasn’t crowded. Lecture and forum: worth attending, I learned some things even outside of my field (they weren’t relevant to this course). 10: The lectures and videos kept me occupied, but were not really relevant to my interests.

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

3: Everyone at Special Collections was great, and there is nothing to comment on. Much gratitude to them! 4: The hand-washing reminders are helpful. A little lesson on library etiquette could also be helpful for those new to Special Collections. 5: I think everything went smoothly with RBS and Special Collections materials. 7: N/A. 8: None! 9: N/A. 10: No suggestions. Everything was professional and well-handled.

14)  Did you get your (or your institutions) money’s worth? Would you recommend this course to others?

1: Both! I certainly will. 2: Yes, I think so. 3: Yes on both accounts: an educational and enjoyable experience. AD is worth the price of admission alone. 4: Yes. 5: Most definitely on both counts! This course was recommended to me, and I will pass the recommendation on to others with great enthusiasm. 6: I did. I would. 7: Yes, and yes. 8: And then some. Where else could I acquire knowledge this specialized, from one of the most eminent experts in the field? 9: Yes, absolutely, on both accounts. 10: Yes on both counts!

15)  Any final or summary thoughts, or advice for other persons considering taking this course in a future year? (If you have further RBS praise or concerns, or if you have suggestions for a new course, please contact Amanda Nelsen [] or Michael Suarez [].)

1: This is a once in a lifetime experience. If you have the opportunity to take AD’s course, do it. 3: A lot of people might say: “not a class for art historians!” I disagree: they are exactly the people who need to be exposed to AD’s school of thought, as long as they approach it with an open mind. While they may not be entirely convinced, I guarantee a new perspective. 4: You do excellent work and I’m glad that I was able to be a part of this course. Thank you! 7: Absolutely recommend this course. 8: Know something of Latin paleography. The course is much more difficult without this knowledge. Don’t be an art historian. Wash your hands. 9: Special Collections librarians are the most kind, accommodating!

Number of respondents: 10





Institution gave me leave


2 (20%)


I took vacation time


2 (20%)


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


6 (60%)


I am self-employed

Work has nothing to do with RBS course



Institution paid tuition


2 (20%)


Institution paid tuition ___%


1 (10%)


I paid tuition myself


3 (30%)


Exchange or barter




N/A: Self-employed, retired or scholarship

4 (40%)



Institution paid housing


3 (30%)


Institution paid for ___% of housing


2 (20%)


I paid for my own housing


1 (10%)


N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home


4 (40%)





Institution paid travel


4 (40%)


Institution paid ___% of my travel




I paid my own travel


2 (20%)


N/A: lived nearby


4 (40%)





There were five Ph.D. students (50%), one librarian with some rare book duties (10%), one assistant professor (10%), one cataloger of rare books (10%), one MLIS student (10%), one undergraduate student (10%)


How did you hear about this course?


RBS Website

2 (20%)

RBS Printed Schedule

1 (10%)

Work Colleague

2 (20%)

Word of mouth

3 (30%)

RBS faculty or staff recommendation

2 (20%)





Where did you stay?

Brown College: 2 (20%)

Courtyard Marriott: 1 (10%)

Red Roof Inn: 1 (10%)

Other: 6 (60%)