Extending Tradition: Building on Medieval Manuscripts

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In 2014, Special Collections in Young Research Library exhibited a selection of the manuscript holdings assembled over two decades by Richard and Mary Rouse. These manuscripts were collected for the purpose of teaching paleography and medieval manuscript studies in all their many cultural dimensions. The original manuscript exhibit provided the impetus to study works in Special Collections that were print or manuscript versions of the authors or individual titles represented in the manuscripts. Students in the Information Studies seminar in the History of the Book, taught in Winter 2014 by Professor Johanna Drucker, were given an assignment to describe, analyze, and provide interpretations for the understanding of what were mainly early printed works. The original assignment involved detailed physical description of the objects, creation of an annotated bibliography of materials relevant to the book and its texts, author, and production, and then the write-up of an interpretative label or text to accompany the online digital images on display here. A list of the students who participated in the class, and the original assignment, can be found in the documentation. For many of them, this was the first encounter with unique materials, rare books, or medieval texts. The effect of holding these rare books in hand, of connecting with an object whose history extends across several hundred years, cannot be replicated in this online environment. But the enthusiasm the experience generates should be palpable in the level of sophistication and commitment that shows in the interpretative work.