Literary, religious and manuscript cultures of the  German-speaking lands:  a  symposium  in memory of Nigel F. Palmer (1946-2022) 

Friday 19 – Saturday 20 May 2023

Venue: Taylor Institution and Weston Library

Admission:  Free for symposium and reception; dinner to be charged. Please register to attend by 30 April 2023.

To celebrate the life and scholarship of Nigel F. Palmer, Professor of  German  Medieval Literary and Linguistic  Studies at the University of Oxford, Faculty, College and academic community will honour his memory with a symposium, to be held at the Taylorian and the Weston Library on 19-20 May 2023.

The symposium brings together colleagues from around the world. Their presentations speak to the wide spectrum of Nigel’s intellectual interests, which ranged extensively within the broad scope of the literary and religious history of the German- and Dutch-speaking lands, treating Latin alongside the vernaculars, the early printed book alongside the manuscript, and the court and the city alongside the monastery and the convent. On Saturday, there will be a reception at St Edmund Hall as well as a dinner.

The event is supported by the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, the Meister-Eckhart-Gesellschaft, SSMLL, and St Edmund Hall. Here a link to the call of papers, below the draft programme.

The Oxford Seminars in Cartography (TOSCA)

We’d like to draw your attention to the first of the TOSCA seminars, details below!

‘Please use the postcode’: navigating the past, present, and future conservation needs of the Hereford Mappa Mundi

 -who: Andrew Honey, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford and Conservation Inspector to the Mappa Mundi Trust

-when: Thursday 2 February 2023, 4.30–6pm (GMT)

-where: Sir Victor Blank Lecture Theatre, Weston Library and online via Zoom

-This talk will examine the conservation needs of the Hereford Mappa Mundi, chart the effects of some of the historic repairs and cleaning campaigns carried out in the past, explain the ingenious methods used to mount the map, and outline future conservation needs, as well as presenting some discoveries from recent conservation inspections.

Book here to attend, in person or online

Seminar in Manuscript Studies and Palaeography

All seminars will take place in the Weston Library, Horton Room, 2.15 – 3.45. For further information contact matthew.holford@bodleian.ox.ac.uk or andrew.dunning@bodleian.ox.ac.uk

16 Jan. (week 1): Laure Miolo (University of Oxford), “Astronomy and astrology in fourteenth-century Oxford: MS. Digby 176 in context”

30 Jan. (week 3): Laura Saetveit Miles (University of Bergen), “The Influence of St. Birgitta of Sweden’s Revelationes in Late-Medieval England” 

13 Feb (week 5): Sonja Drimmer (University of Massachusetts Amherst): “The ‘Genealogy Industry’: Codicological Diversity in England, c.1400–c.1500.”

27 Feb. (week 7): Laura Light (Les Enluminures), “Latin Bibles in England c. 1200-c. 1230”

Astronomy and astrology in fourteenth-century Oxford: MS. Digby 176 in context

The manuscript Oxford, Bodleian, Digby 176 is a key witness for better understanding the astronomical and astrological practices and innovations of a group of practitioners trained in Oxford around mid-fourteenthcentury. This group of scholars sharing a same background and interest in the ‘science of the stars’ (scientia stellarum) was closely linked to Merton College. Modern historiography mainly tended to focus on the so-called calculatores, eclipsing the scientific activities of this circle of astronomers and astrologers. In this group, Simon Bredon (d. 1372) or William Reed (d. 1385) played the role of patrons, providing subsidies, books and doubtless a scientific expertise. The codex Oxford, Bodleian, Digby 176 is representative of these activities and intellectual exchanges. It also allows to better understand the earliest phase of reception of Alfonsine astronomy in England and the role played by William Reed in this circle. This composite volume assembled by William Reed displays highly sophisticated and cutting-edge scientific innovations fostered by a rapid flow of information and technical data within this ‘community of learning’. Finally, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Digby 176 also raises the problem of the complementary practices between astronomy and astrology, and the growing specialisation of scholars in one or the other of these disciplines.

MS. Digby 176, fol. 71v Almanak Solis 1342

Special Event. Library Lates: Sensational Books

When: 7 – 9.30pm on Friday, 21 October 2022

Where: Blackwell Hall, Weston Library

The event is free but booking is required. When you have booked your place, the ticketing system will send you an automated confirmation.

About the event

Join us in October at the Weston Library for a Library Late celebrating our exhibition Sensational Books.

From ‘living books’ and historic scents to conductive ink and tactile pages, enjoy taster talks, discussions, hands-on activities and live music to engage the five senses of sight, sound, taste, smell, touch and beyond.

Drop-in activities7 – 9.30pm, Blackwell Hall

Meet the Guide Dogs team of handlers and guide dogs and try simulation activities to explore the impact of sight loss.

Write beautiful calligraphy with a sensory twist.

Try embossing natural patterns and your initials in Gothic font.

Make a mini concertina book full of colour to explore the senses.

Print a ‘sensational’ keepsake to take away.

Senses in Conservation: discover tools and techniques using the senses with Bodleian Conservation.

Go on a scent journey with Dr Alexy Karenowska (Department of Physics, University of Oxford)

Meet artist Sam Skinner and discover how touch can make text speak

Discover Lit Hits and get a literary prescription with a sensory flavour.

Borrow a ‘living book’ from the Living Library to explore topics including:

  • Making Sense of Sound with Professor Andrew King (Neurophysiology, University of Oxford) and Dr Kerry Walker (Neuroscience, University of Oxford)
  • Books and Usa 2000 year relationship with Professor Emma Smith (Professor of Shakespeare Studies, University of Oxford)
  • Your Brain is not a Black Box with Professor Randy Bruno (Professor of Neuroscience, University of Oxford)
  • Learning to Read the Whole Book with Professor Michael Suarez (Professor and Director of Rare Book School, University of Virginia)
  • Touching the Alphabet with Dr Vaibhav Singh (Visiting Research Fellow in Typography & Graphic Communication, University of Reading)
  • Multisensory books: on the enduring appeal of analog with Professor Charles Spence (Professor in Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford)

Taster talks 

7.30 – 7.50pm: Multisensory books – on the enduring appeal of analog
Charles Spence, Professor in Experimental Psychology and author of Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating

The predicted emergence of ebooks has not happened. And that is not just because the younger generations like an academic-looking backdrop to their social media posts. Books engage the senses in a way that is closely linked to nostalgia and memories. While the smell of books can be hugely evocative, the weight and feel of books, and even the sound of the pages turning have been shown to influence people’s perception of the contents. Books, then, are multisensory objects capable of stimulating the senses in ways that are both universal but also culturally-determined.


8.00 – 8.20pm: Senses and Sensibilities – approaches to bookbinding in recent accessions to the Bodleian Library
Andrew Honey, Book Conservator at the Bodleian Library

This taster talk will explore recent accessions to the Bodleian and the often-playful ways that book artists have approached concepts of both books and book bindings. It will also consider the challenges that these may pose for research libraries and conservators.


9.00 – 9.20pm: Sensory books – coming back to our senses to transform children’s digital reading
Natalia Kucirkova, Professor of Early Childhood Education and Development at the University of Stavanger, Norway

This taster talk will explore a cutting-edge project researching the power of smells and scents to transform children’s reading.  The project includes a scented adventure trail which engaged children’s sense of smell in their exploration of the story ‘The Three Little Pigs’.

More highlights

The Smell Archive
Dr Cecilia Bembibre Jacobo, UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage and Sarah McCartney, Perfumer
Space for Reading, 20-minute sessions at 7.15pm, 8.00pm and 8.45pm – sign up on arrival

After decades of engaging with history in museums and archives primarily through our eyes, we are rediscovering the value of a multi-sensory approach to cultural heritage. Smells, for example, are linked to aspects of heritage like traditions and tourism; they stand as symbols of a shared past and enhance visitors’ museum experience. In this session, we will share a framework to document scents and their meaning as personal or collective heritage. Sarah McCartney will provide creative context for the smell archival framework. Please join us for a nose-on evening, where we will develop an archive for a particular scent and explore its collective meanings and significance.


When Air Becomes Breath and Breath Becomes Spirit
Áine O’Dwyer and Hannah White, artist-performers
Blackwell Hall, 8.30pm – 8.45pm

Coupling the corporeal and ritual elements of mediaeval manuscript culture, and drawing from the agency of matter artist-performers, Áine O’Dwyer and Hannah White interpret the visual score element of Helen Frosi‘s installation, When Air Becomes Breath and Breath Becomes Spirit. Here, the body magics air into creative potential (inspiration), and the breath becomes a potent symbol of life itself.


B42 (Surrogate)
David Gauthier and Sam Skinner
Blackwell Hall, 7 – 9.30pm (drop-in)

Meet the artist Sam Skinner (Oxford Brookes University) and explore the leporello style book he produced in collaboration with David Gauthier (Utrecht University) which reproduces a section of the Gutenberg Bible using conductive ink, transforming the page into a capacitive sensor and enabling the reader’s touch to trigger recorded readings of the text.


Singing from the St Edmund Consort
Blackwell Hall, 7.30pm and 9pm

Palaeography Self-Help Groups

Students in the history and MML faculties are working together on two palaeography groups, one every week of term, alternating between French and Iberian palaeography. They are both student run, collaborative groups where people can bring something they’re working on to get help from others and work through things together, and improve their skills. We also share resources and course recommendations.

The Iberian Palaeography group will meet weeks 2, 4, 6, and 8, on Tuesdays at 5pm, via Teams.

We will be scheduling the French Palaeography group based on members’ availability.

If you’d like to be involved please email Clare Burgess at clare.burgess@univ.ox.ac.uk, and state which group (or both!) you’re interested in.

Header image: Livre de Merlin (Arras, 1310), Add MS 38117, f. 76r(Source: British Library)

Call for Papers: Memorial Symposium for Nigel F. Palmer

Update: Registration for the Memorial Event is now open! Please register by 23 April 2023.

What: Literary, religious and manuscript cultures of the German-speaking lands: a symposium in memory of Nigel F. Palmer (1946-2022)

When: 19/20 May 2023

Where: Oxford, Bodleian Library, Taylor Institution Library, St Edmund Hall

To celebrate the life and scholarship of Nigel F. Palmer, Professor of German Medieval Literary and Linguistic Studies at the University of Oxford, we invite expressions of interest from those who wish to honour his memory with an academic contribution to speak at a symposium in Oxford that is to take place 19-20 May 2023. Presentations of twenty minutes’ length are sought. They should speak to an aspect of the wide spectrum of Nigel’s intellectual interests, which ranged extensively within the broad scope of the literary and religious history of the German- and Dutch-speaking lands, treating Latin alongside the vernaculars, the early printed book alongside the manuscript, and the court and the city alongside the monastery and the convent. His primary intellectual contributions were methodological rather than theoretical, and he brought together a study of the book as a material object with the philological and linguistic discipline of the Germanophone academic tradition.

The first session planned for the afternoon of Friday 19 May will take place consequently in the Weston Library, and will consider the manuscript cultures of the German-speaking lands; presentations may take a workshop format, and may – though need not – focus upon one or more manuscripts in the Bodleian collections. The second and third sessions will take place on Saturday 20 May in the Taylorian Library, and will consider the religious and literary history of the German-speaking lands in relation to the questions, issues and working methods central to Nigel’s published scholarship.

We would request expressions of interest, of not more than one full page, to be received by 11 November 2022, to be sent to Stephen Mossman. We ask in advance for the understanding of all who submit that we anticipate receiving many more expressions of interest than we can accommodate within the schedule. A reception will be held at St Edmund Hall on the Saturday afternoon, to which all are cordially invited and welcome, followed by a dinner in College. Those planning to attend are advised to reserve accommodation in good time, e.g. via universityrooms. We hope to secure funding to support early career researchers in attending the symposium, but anticipate that participants will need to cover their travel and accommodation expenses. Details of the symposium and registration will be available through the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages web-site in early 2023.

For the organising committee: Racha Kirakosian, Henrike Lähnemann, Stephen Mossman, Almut Suerbaum

Image: Nigel F. Palmer studying the facsimile of the Osterspiel von Muri on the gallery of the Taylor Institution Library. Photograph by Henrike Lähnemann

ETC Seminar on Textual Cultures in Contact (Oxford, TT22)

The Early Text Cultures research cluster based at Oxford is pleased to present its Research Seminar series in Trinity Term (May and June 2022), which will be on ‘Textual Cultures in Contact’. Through sessions comprising paired papers, this seminar series will enable participants and attendees alike to gain fresh perspectives on the nature of ‘contact’ among textual cultures, and on the affordances and limitations of their fields’ methods and approaches to the topic. 

The seminar will be held in a hybrid form, with Zoom connection complementing on-site presence atthe Dickson Poon Building (China Centre, Oxford), Lucina Ho Seminar Room, on Tuesdays 16:30-18:00 UK time. Auditors are most welcome to attend in person. Zoom links will be provided on each session’s day to those who sign up here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1BtWbVHXkBFq-CvimjVnVolSeDcpR54ssZdWUC6jf15I/edit.

Please find the programme below; abstracts may be found on our website (https://www.earlytextcultures.org/events/current-events/research-seminar-tt-22).

Programme

§ Session 1 (17 May)
Cross-Cultural Competition
(Near East, Hebrew Bible, Greece)

Joe Barber (Oxford): ‘Walk about the City and See Its Walls: An Echo of the Epic of Gilgameš in Psalm 48?’
Alexander Meeus (Mannheim): ‘Josephus’ Historiographical Theory in Against Apion: Jewish or Greek Method?’

§ Session 2 (24 May)
Scribes as Cultural Vehicles
(Near East, China and the Silk Road)

Ludovica Bertolini (Prague): ‘A Preliminary Reflection on the Use of Sumerian Literature in Scribal Education at Ugarit’ 
Christopher Foster (SOAS) & Tomas Larsen Høisæter (Western Norway): ‘Writing Between Empires: Script Use in the Tarim Basin along the Southern Silk Road’

§ Session 3 (7 June)
Materiality of Translation 
(Medieval Greek and Latin, China)

Erene Rafik Morcos (Princeton/Rome): ‘… διὰ χειρὸς τοῦ πολυαμαρτήτου ῾Ρωμανοῦ… by the hand of the great sinner Romanos …’ 
Nelson Landry (Oxford): ‘A Five Dynasties Manuscript in Relation to Tang Buddhist Culture: A Study of S.3728 from the British Library’

§ Session 4 (14 June)
Religion Through Cultural Boundaries
(Iran, India and China)

Aleksandra Wenta (Florence): ‘Early Tantric Magic: An Example of Śaiva (Hindu)-Buddhist Intertextuality in Pre-modern India’ 
Francesco Barchi (Munich): ‘Traces of “Buddhist Iranian” in Early Chinese Buddhist Translations’

We hope to see many of you there!

Medieval Coffee Mornings are back!

Medievalists Coffee Mornings back from 22 April @bodleiancsb. Every Friday 10:30-11:30am in the Visiting Scholars Centre in the Weston Library. Access via the Readers Entrance on Museum Road. All bodcard holders welcome!

  • Tea
  • Roof terrace
  • Sneak preview of new acquisitions

@oxmedstud grads: Apply NOW to Chris Fletcher for title of “bibliobarista” to help & pick items for discussion!

Workshop Report: ‘The Murbach Hymns (MS. Junius 25) – Vernacular Glossing in the Early Middle Ages’

The workshop ‘The Murbach Hymns (MS. Junius 25) – Vernacular Glossing in the Early Middle Ages’ (17–18 February 2022) highlighted a remarkable text ensemble: the Murbach hymns, a Latin hymnal with Old High German interlinear glosses. Taking this text, one of the oldest sources of Old High German, and its manuscript MS. Junius 25 (Oxford, Bodleian Library) as starting point, the importance of vernacular glossing and writing in the Early Middle Ages became clear: It sits at the crossroads of theological, linguistic, and layout approaches to the text.

Helen Gittos and Luise Morawetz discussing MS. Rawl. C. 697 (Oxford, Bodleian Library) at the Weston Library.

Participants from all over the world were able to participate thanks to the hybrid conference format, accessible online as well as in person. To allow all participants the same close-up insights into the materiality of the valuable and fragile manuscripts, the workshop opened with a presentation of the manuscript MS. Junius 25. Due to the excellent equipment of the Bodleian Library, it came to life in the expert hands of the curators, who turned the pages and the whole volume as real-time reaction to questions and requests from the audience, who were introduced to the material and linguistic peculiarities of the rare object. The speakers present at Oxford had the chance to consult and discuss the original manuscripts beforehand.

Over the course of further sessions, scholars from different research communities came together and presented their work on linguistics, pragmatics and material studies. Combining different disciplines resulted in a comprehensive survey of the use and characteristics of vernacular in the Early Middle Ages, including Old High German, Old Frisian and Old English. The theoretical insights were put into practice in a Latin-Old High German compline, which demonstrated how the oldest variety of the German language could be brought back to life. For the first time in history, the glosses of the Murbach hymns were set to music, among other Old High German texts read during the service. The workshop was brought to a close with a consultation of further glossed manuscripts of the Bodleian Library (MS. Auct. F. 1. 16, MS. Rawl. C. 697, MS. Canon. Pat. Lat. 57), partly neither digitised nor edited, which put the focus again on the object – the foundation of historical linguistic studies.

The St Edmund Consort performing the Latin-Old High German compline in the crypt
of St-Peter-in-the-East in Oxford.

The event was designed as a workshop and was intended to allow the participants to interact with each other and develop ideas collectively. Extended breaks were included in which discussions could continue in person as well as online. This opportunity was used by many, despite sessions already overrunning to address all questions. During the sessions, breakout groups allowed smaller groups of participants to share their thoughts before entering the main discussion, enabling equal contributions from listeners and speakers and leading to lively participation.

The interdisciplinary approach to early vernacular and the workshop format worked well, as the high numbers of registrations and intense and vibrant discussions showed. The workshop brought the exciting text and manuscript of the Murbach hymns back into the focus of linguistic research.

We hope to deepen the collaborations established during the event and continue the debates about the status of the vernacular in the Early Middle Ages in future, exploring the interdisciplinary approach further and testing it on other material from the rich collections of Oxford and beyond.

The manuscript in focus. The setup of the workshop in St Edmund Hall (Oxford) during the presentation of Auct. F. 1. 16 (Oxford, Bodleian Library).

I want to thank all participants and supporters of this workshop, above all the speakers (in order of their presentations): Prof. Dr Daniela Mairhofer (Princeton); Prof. Dr Michael Stolz (Bern); Dr Elke Krotz (Vienna); Dr Matthias Standke (Berlin); Prof. Dr Alderik Blom (Marburg); Dr Helen Gittos (Oxford); Prof. em. Dr Elvira Glaser (Zurich); Prof. Dr Stephan Müller (Vienna).

I also want to thank the team of the Bodleian Libraries, Dr Alexandra Franklin, Dr Matthew Holford and Dr Andrew Dunning; Tom Revell, who produced this event; James Whitbourn, who set the Murbach hymns to music, and the St Edmund Consort, who performed the compline; and Will Thurlwell, Prof. Dr Howard Jones and Prof. Dr Henrike Lähnemann, who supported the workshop in person.


In association with the Bodleian Libraries and Oxford Medieval Studies, sponsored by the Centre for the Study of the Book (CSB), The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) and the University Council of Modern Languages (UCML).

Convenor: Luise Morawetz (luise.morawetz@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk)

Latin-Old High German Compline

On 17 February 2022, 9:15pm GMT, the St Edmund Consort sings Compline from the crypt of St-Peter-in-the-East, including a bilingual setting of verses from the ‘Christe qui lux est et dies’ from the Murbach Hymnal, MS. Junius 25, by James Whitbourn. Live-streamed via youtube from the Crypt of St-Peter-in-the-East. Booklet with texts.

Compline is the last service of the canonical hours in the Christian tradition, sung before retiring for the night. This version hints at the experience of those who created and used the ninth-century Murbach hymnal (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Junius 25) with their daily exposure to the Divine Office in Latin, making the hymns and liturgical pieces accessible through translation and commentary. The service tonight is not a historically accurate reconstruction of a specific service, rather an experiment to make the soundscape of Latin and Old High German liturgy and hymns accessible to a 21st century audience. We are grateful to the Principal and Fellows of St Edmund Hall for the permission to use the crypt of St-Peter-in-the-East; to James Whitbourn, Director of Music, for setting verses from the Murbach Hymns to music (to the best of our knowledge the first time this has been done for the Old High German interlinear gloss!) and for conducting; to the St Edmund Consort, a recently formed group of fellows, alumni and singers linked with St Edmund Hall; to Luise Morawetz for organising the workshop which inspired this; to Andrew Dunning for typesetting the music; to Christiane Gante who translated the Gloria Patri into Old High German; to Henrike Lähnemann for compiling the text; to all participants of the workshop who contributed their knowledge and enthusiasm.

Programme of the workshop. In association with the Bodleian Libraries and Oxford Medieval Studies, sponsored by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH). Image credit: First lines of the Murbach hymns (fol. 122v, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Junius 25). Produced by Tom Revell