H-20a. The Book in the Manuscript Era (22 hours)

Raymond Clemens

“This was a balanced, authoritative overview which gave us the overall contours of the subject in a reliable way, and made a great foundation for further work.” —2017 student

Course Length: 22 hours
Schedule: 11 a.m.–5 p.m. ET (including breaks), 14–18 June 2021
Format: Online
Cost: $1,000

An online introduction to the manuscript book in the West that covers the period from late antiquity to the beginning of the sixteenth century, using primarily the online images from Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Topics include: the book form; its materials and construction; the writing and decorating of books; different types of books, including biblical, theological, historical, poetic, legal, classical, liturgical, and devotional; the histories of books; and the manuscript book in the digital age. Because we are offering this course online, it will be substantially different from the in-person version. Students will be provided with a quill, paper, and ink ingredients, and will be required to prepare those ingredients before the course begins. There will also be required reading before the course begins. 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 manuscript 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.

Before the first class, students must read chapters 1–4, Clemens and Graham, Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Cornell, 2007). 

Clemens, R. and T. Graham. Introduction to Manuscript Studies. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007.

The course is limited to 12 students.

Course History

Raymond Clemens teaches this course.


Raymond Clemens

Raymond Clemens

Ray Clemens is Curator for Early Books and Manuscripts at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University. He is the author, with Timothy Graham, of Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Cornell University Press, 2007), and the editor of The Voynich Manuscript (Yale University Press, 2016). He has held a Mellon Fellowship and a British Academy-Newberry Library Exchange Fellowship.

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