INTRODUCING THE OXFORD MEDIEVAL MANUSCRIPTS GROUP

By Mathilde Mioche

The Oxford Medieval Manuscripts Group (OMMG) is a collective of eight postgraduate students and early-career researchers who bonded in Oxford over their passion for medieval manuscripts. We host a seminar series through which we hope to gather a community of emerging scholars, from the University of Oxford and beyond, around the study of medieval books and the art of illumination.

Starting in Hilary Term 2024, OMMG seminars will take place twice monthly on Friday afternoons. We will discuss the most exciting recent research; share our own projects and ideas in a supportive environment; learn from lectures and tutorials given by experienced colleagues; and examine medieval manuscripts together during library visits.

By promoting exchange between scholars with diverse specialisms and different levels of experience, OMMG aims to turn the study of medieval books and illuminations into a more collaborative pursuit. We know that working with manuscripts is often a solitary business, where knowledge is acquired over silent and cautious one-on-one meetings with a delicate object. We want to share the wonder we experience before the material, visual and textual complexity of illuminated codices, as well as the interrogations or frustrations we have as we encounter obstacles in our research. The OMMG seminar series will provide manuscript enthusiasts with a stimulating platform for learning practical and analytical skills from peers as well as experts. We would love you to join us!

To subscribe to our mailing list, participate in library visits, propose a presentation of your research for work-in-progress meetings, or submit any queries, please write to:

elena.lichmanova@merton.ox.ac.uk.

You can find our schedule here:

https://talks.ox.ac.uk/talks/series/id/df485bd9-62b9-4beb-83f3-2cc238e003c9.

About Us

Irina Boeru is a third-year DPhil student with a background in Medieval and Modern Languages and Medieval Studies. Her research analyses travel narratives in French and Latin illuminated manuscripts, specifically chronicles of the fifteenth-century conquest of the Canary Islands.

Fergus Bovill graduated with a BA in History of Art from the University of York. He is currently pursuing an MSt in Medieval Studies, with a dissertation on the assemblage of medieval manuscript cuttings into albums by nineteenth-century bibliophiles and connoisseurs.

Charly Driscoll completed an MSc in Book History and Material Culture at the University of Edinburgh and is now studying for a DPhil in Medieval English. Her project investigates how the material features of medieval manuscripts reveal their individual histories.

Elena Lichmanova is a third-year DPhil student with a background in History of Art and Medieval Studies. Her research examines the origins and early history of marginalia in medieval manuscripts, focusing on illuminated English Psalters of the thirteenth century.

Mathilde Mioche completed an MSt in History of Art and Visual Culture with a dissertation on illuminated Insular Gospels. She is currently preparing a doctoral project on the formal and medial mutations of the Dance of Death since its emergence in the fifteenth century.

Ana de Oliveira Dias is a historian of early medieval visual and intellectual culture with a specialisation in manuscript studies. She received a PhD in Medieval History from Durham University in 2019 and is now a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the project Crafting Documents, c. 500—c. 800 CE at the University of Oxford.

Celeste Pan is a third-year DPhil student with a background in English and Medieval Studies. Her research considers the production of illuminated Hebrew manuscripts in medieval northern Europe, specifically a group of liturgical Bibles from the Rheno-Mosan region.

Klara Zhao is a first-year MPhil student in Egyptology preparing a dissertation inspired by Umberto Eco’s Infinity of Lists. She developed a special interest in medieval French poetry during her BA in French and Linguistics, which she continues to nurture.

Image: Saint Augustine teaching. Paris, Bibl. Mazarine, MS 616, fol. 1r.

St John’s Digitization Project

(By Sophie Bacchus-Waterman, Special Collections Photographer, St John’s College)

As Special Collections Photographer for the Digitization Project at St John’s College, I photograph the manuscripts and early printed books from our Special Collections. Given that we have over 20,000 early printed books and over 300 manuscripts, and it would be impossible for one person to digitize them all, we have devised a shortlist of items which will be made available online during this project. These might be manuscripts with significant cultural or historic value, interesting provenance, unique texts, or items that are regularly requested by researchers. Several items have already been made available on Digital Bodleian, and more are being added regularly.

Grazer Conservation Cradle

Books being photographed are placed onto the Grazer Conservation Cradle. The cradle is set to a 120° opening angle. If a book is not able to be opened at that angle, it is supported with foam wedges. Along the side of the cradle is a vacuum bar, on which the page being photographed is placed. Each page of the book being photographed is placed onto the vacuum bar, which, when switched on, acts like a vacuum and gently pulls the page into place. Along the vacuum bar is a ruler, which allows anyone viewing the book on Digital Bodleian to see its size. The colour swatch lets me keep the lighting and colour accurate from page to page.

Vacuum bar, ruler, and colour swatch on the cradle

Images are taken with a PhaseOne camera, which is directly parallel to the page being photographed. The camera can be moved closer or further away using a control panel on the side of the cradle. If I’m working with a smaller book, for instance, the camera might need to be closer to the cradle than if I’m working with a larger book. The cradle can also be adjusted with the control panel, and moved up or down as necessary, or left and right with a small dial. As I move through a book, the cradle might need be adjusted accordingly.

Control panel and dial for adjusting the cradle

Besides photographing the internals of our books, I also photograph the externals, using a flatbed and a wall-mounted Canon camera, in the setup seen in the photograph below.

MS 164, a 14th century French manuscript with a velvet binding, on the flatbed

The book is placed on the flatbed, and I photograph its front and back covers. It is also placed on its fore edge and spine, carefully supported with small towers of foam blocks on either side, which are covered with black cloth. I also include a ruler and colour swatch in photos of the externals, for the same reason as they are included in the internal shots.

Photographing MS 61

MS 61 was always high on our priority list for items to be digitized. A 13th century bestiary made in York, richly illuminated, MS 61 is one of the jewels of our Special Collections. If you would like to read more about it, you can see its catalogue description on Medieval Manuscripts in Oxford Libraries, encoded by my colleague, Sian Witherden.

I knew that MS 61 would initially pose challenges, due to its extensive use of gold leaf. Each illumination is backed with a thick ground of gold leaf, which reflects light when photographed. Given the amount of gold on certain folios, the light reflected in such a way that the gold looked white, an effect known as “specular highlights”, as seen in the below left photograph. In order to photograph a manuscript with extensive gold leaf, the lamps in the Photography Studio must be pointed upwards, away from the cradle. The light then bounces off the ceiling and onto the gold leaf, as seen in the below right photograph.

St John’s College, MS 61, fol. 9r

Once the issue of lighting the gold leaf was resolved, MS 61 was a dream to work with. For an 800-year-old manuscript, it was incredibly easy to handle. Written on high quality vellum, it was sturdy, its pages turned easily, and its modern binding meant that it was happy to open to the 120° angle of the cradle. As with the other books I’ve worked with so far, MS 61 was placed onto the cradle – it opened easily, and was handled with the usual care I handle the Special Collections items, but it didn’t need any extra support while out.

As I moved through the manuscript, I was struck by the incredible illuminations throughout it. Even after centuries, it is in a stunning condition, almost as if it had been made yesterday. In order to accommodate the manuscript, I moved the cradle left and right, and up and down, as needed, so that it was resting comfortably on the cradle. Above everything else, the preservation of whatever book I am working with is paramount to the project. Luckily, MS 61 didn’t require any extra support, or prove difficult at all.

The social media response to MS 61 being digitized was astounding, but also hardly surprising. MS 61 is one of the most beautiful and treasured items in our collection, and a lot of people have been excited to see it online. Not only is it a privilege to work with such stunning and rare books in my role, but knowing that the Digitization Project is facilitating research and introducing people to our collection online makes it all the more rewarding.

If you would like to see more of our collection, please visit our Digital Library, where you can read more about our collection, and see what has already been made available to view online. If you would like to read more about MS 61, take a look at this Book of the Month blog post here.

Conference ‘Articulation of Silence from a Gendered Perspective’

The Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures (https://cmtc.queens.ox.ac.uk) will host the international conference ‘Articulation of Silence from a Gendered Perspective’ on the 26th, 27th, and 28th of September.

The main objective of this conference is to investigate the articulation of silence in text and manuscript cultures in different premodern traditions (https://mtc-journal.org/index.php/mtc) (Greece, Medieval Europe, China, Japan, Korea, India, ancient Egypt and the Middle East), from a (global?) gendered perspective. We define here ‘silence’ as an expression of the act of the non-articulation in texts and manuscripts of different genres and written on different kinds of material carriers, and invite papers that ‘unmute the muted’ or ‘hear the unheard’. By adopting a gendered perspective in the study of silence, we encourage scholars to be attentive to the silence of both individuals and groups that belong to the non-dominant social, political, and intellectual class in their respective cultures. The conference aims to bring together a diverse group of speakers, including both junior researchers and experienced scholars, coming from different disciplinary backgrounds, with the goal of fostering a lively interdisciplinary debate on the topic.

The conference will take place in the Lucina Ho Room of the China Centre from 9.30am to 5pm on the 26th, from 10am to 7pm on the 27th, and from 9am to 1pm on the 28th.

Conference ‘Articulation of Silence from a Gendered Perspective’
University Oxford, China Centre, Dickson Poon Building, Canterbury Rd, Oxford OX2 6LU September 26
th–28th 2023

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Silencing of the voices of ‘the others’ as expressed in the texts
  • Female strategies to control the male narrative and male voices, and vice-versa
  • Strategies of the texts in prioritising the male over the female voices
  • Cases of disregard or disrespect of female and other voices, turning them into silence
  • The materiality of voicing gendered silence
  • The material contexts of gendered silence
  • Reception strategies of dealing with queer voices in manuscriptsThe conference aims to bring together a diverse group of speakers, including both junior researchers and experienced scholars, coming from different disciplinary backgrounds, with the goal of fostering a lively interdisciplinary debate on the topic.Our aim is that the papers presented at the conference will be published in the 2025 spring volume of the journal Manuscript and Text Cultures.Organizers: Dirk Meyer (University of Oxford), Lisa Indraccolo (Tallinn University), Stefka G. Eriksen (University of Oslo)

CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

26TH SEPTEMBER
9:30 –10:00 OPENING SPEECHES AND INTRODUCTION (Meyer/Eriksen/Indraccolo)

10:00 –10:15: COFFEE BREAK

10:15–12:00 FIRST SESSION: SILENCE AND THE BODY Chair: Dirk Meyer (University of Oxford)

Stefka G. Eriksen (University of Oslo)

“Women Controlling the Narrative in Old Norse Culture: Silencing the Male Voice and Obstructing the Male Gaze”

Andreas Serafim (Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun)
“Making silence speak: Body behaviour and kinaidia in ancient literature”

12:00 –14:00 LUNCH BREAK

14:00–15:45 SECOND SESSION: SILENCE AND MATERIAL CULTURE Chair: Stefka G. Eriksen (University of Oslo)

Elizabeth Frood (University of Oxford)
“She is spoken for: self-presentation and presenting female selves in ancient Egyptian temple statues”

Vincent Debiais (EHESS Paris)
“Gendered Silence & Gendered Images in the Latin West”

15:45–16:15: COFFEE BREAK 16:15: 17:00 ROUND-UP DAY 1

27TH SEPTEMBER
10:00–11:45 THIRD SESSION: SILENCE AND THE AUTHORIAL SELF Chair: Dirk Meyer (University of Oxford)

Elsa Kueppers (Ruhr University Bochum)
“Beyond the Inner Room: Records of (Imagined) Journeys by Chosŏn Korean Women”

Julia Rüthemann (EHESS, Paris)
“Female silence and authorship in late medieval courtly first-person narratives”

11:45–14:00 LUNCH BREAK

14:00–15:45 FOURTH SESSION: SILENCE, LITERARY CULTURE AND THE CANON Chair: Lisa Indraccolo (Tallinn University)

Dirk Meyer (University of Oxford)
“You are (not) muted: gendered power structures of silence in the Shī manuscripts of Ānhuī University”

Jennifer Guest (University of Oxford)
“Silence in the Pillow Book: the power of missing texts in the early medieval Japanese court”

15:45–16:15: COFFEE BREAK

16:15 –17:45 FIFTH SESSION: SILENCE AND TRANSGRESSION Chair: Stefka G. Eriksen (University of Oslo)

Lisa Indraccolo (Tallinn University)
“Girls Gone Bad – ‘Evil women’ and the gendered use of silence as a control tool in early China”

Kate Crosby (University of Oxford)

“Unheard, unseen and central: the long shadow cast modern Theravada by early struggles with female agency”

17:45-19:00 ROUND-UP DAY 2

28th SEPTEMBER
9:00–10:45 SIXTH SESSION: SILENCE AND DISOBEDIENCE/DISSENT Chair: Dirk Meyer (University of Oxford)

Thomas Crone (IKGF Erlangen–Nürnberg)
“Silence as a Sign of (Male) Powerlessness? The Case of the Western Han Manuscript Wang Ji 妄稽 (Ms. Baseless)”

10:45–11:15 COFFEE BREAK
11:15 –13:00 FINAL ROUND-UP DISCUSSION

page3image82549040

BOOK OF ABSTRACTS

Stefka G. Eriksen (University of Oslo)

Women Controlling the Narrative in Old Norse Culture: Silencing the Male Voice and Obstructing the Male Gaze

A popular motive in medieval literature encompasses the meeting between a woman and a man, when, for various reasons, the woman either demands of the man that he does not tell anyone about her (she controls his voice/ demands silence of him), or she does not allow him to see her (she controls his gaze/ makes him non-seeing). This motive gets realized in a number of Old Norse translations too from the middle of the thirteenth century, such as some of the short stories of the Strengleikar-collection (based on lais of Marie de France), or Old Norse translations of romances by Chrétien de Troyes and Partalopi saga (based on Partonopeu de Blois). In this paper, I will investigate how the topic of female control of the male voice and gaze is adapted to the Old Norse cultural context, by comparing the Old Norse translations to their European sources and to other indigenous Old Norse texts containing similar motives. A secondary main question in this investigation will be whether speaking/ non-speaking and seeing/ non-seeing may be seen as parallel affordances or handicaps in medieval culture and whether they were related to gender differently.

Andreas Serafim (Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun)

“Making silence speak: Body behaviour and kinaidia in ancient literature”

This paper puts forward the argument that kinaidia, roughly referring to passive homosexuality and effeminate deportment, is reflected in nonverbal and inarticulate body markers that most succinctly describe self, what one does (akin to the theories of S. de Beauvoir) to be. The purpose of the paper is threefold: first, to explore passages that have been largely underexamined in scholarship (e.g. Archilochus fr. 327 and 328 which are notable in presenting a kinaidos as having the embodied and moral markers of a bad prostitute); second, to exploit textual (Book of Physiognomy, 4th century AD) and non-textual sources (the Kroisos Kouros and the discus- thrower by the sculptor Myron) to present a physiognomic vignette of the hoplite, which stands in sharp contrast to that of a kinaidos, as argued in Aeschines 2.150-151; and third, to substantiate the claims that involuntary and unconscious bodily reactions indicate kinaidic identity. Diogenes Laertius 7.173 and Dio Chrysostom 33.53-54 make, specifically, the case that sneezing reveals kinaidia because of uncontrolled embodied performance, especially regarding sound, gesticulation, and stature. The silent human body has its own ways to speak volumes about the sex and gender of individuals.

Elizabeth Frood (University of Oxford)

“She is spoken for: self-presentation and presenting female selves in ancient Egyptian temple statues”

She is gracious. She is hospitable. She is grieving. And, most usually, she is silent. These are conventional characterisations of elite women in Egypt’s New Kingdom and early Third Intermediate Period (ca. 1539 – 715 BCE) as incorporated into the monumental display of their male relatives or, very rarely, into their own separate memorials. This paper explores the implications of such self-fashioning, particularly through temple statues and the voices that are occasionally ascribed to women on them. Although these representations in image and text were almost certainly designed and composed by men, in itself deepening women’s silence, they may offer ways to reconsider the material, performative presence of some (statue) individuals in temple environments. This is especially the case in the early first millennium BCE when possibilities for independent female self-presentations were expanding.

Vincent Debiais (EHESS Paris)

“Gendered Silence & Gendered Images in the Latin West”

Art from the Western Middle Ages has transformed silence into images. This visual singularity, which transfers something that cannot be heard into something that can be seen, is linked to the fact that silence, in the context of the Christian culture of asceticism and prayer, is both a social practice of speech control and a theoretical principle allowing the revelation and expression of realities that escape verbal language. These figures of silence in medieval art use color, geometry, or ornament, but they are also embodied in human figures who describe the experience of silence or participate in its regulation, especially within the monastery. In this paper focusing on images produced in monastic context in the Latin West between the 9th and 14th centuries, we will try to show that the gender of painted or sculpted figures denotes certain properties or qualities of silence and that they seek to make them resonate with the social environments to which they are intended. We will thus question the possible specificities of the silence of the monk and the nun, and the way in which it was put into image, analyzing the distortions, incongruities and theological or practical discourses produced on the gender of silence during the Middle Ages.

Elsa Kueppers (Ruhr University Bochum)

Beyond the Inner Room: Records of (Imagined) Journeys by Chosŏn Korean Women

This presentation explores the nexus of travel and writing, illustrating how these components constituted a transcending of boundaries—both spatial and societal—for elite women during the later Chosŏn Dynasty (16th-19th c.). Facing increasing societal restrictions rooted in the Confucian state ideology, these women were relegated to a secluded life within the “inner room” (kyujung 閨中), emblematic of the private sphere. However, there is evidence that many of these women yearned to venture beyond these confines, as vividly reflected in their records of imagined and actual journeys. As autonomous continuations of their journeys, the written accounts inscribe the women’s unique lived experiences with heightened significance and submit them into the literary space traditionally reserved for men. This makes them a testimony to a twofold trespassing: first, leaving the confines of the private sphere, and second, breaking silence by articulating these experiences in literature. Examining the self-narratives of Hŏ Nansŏrhŏn, Nam Ŭiyudang, and Kim Kŭmwŏn, the presentation seeks to illuminate how these authors maintained the delicate balance between the societal expectations for female silence and seclusion and the authentic expression of their voices.

Julia Rüthemann (EHESS, Paris)

“Female silence and authorship in late medieval courtly first-person narratives”

In late medieval first-person narratives about love, a text group spread throughout Europe in the late Middle Ages, it is usually a male author-narrator who tells his love experience with a young woman, authorizing him as lover and as author. His beloved appears as silenced love object out of reach with a symbolic value as in the Roman de la Rose (13th century) or – even if she functions as a co-creater of the text (as in the Roman de la Poire, 13th century) ‒ as textual projection ofthe male author. Moreover, at times, the beloved is super-posed with the allegory of love, being a mediating abstract principle that inspires the author to create poetry rather than a human person with her own voice. First, the paper aims to examine the link between female silence, allegory and authorship in love narratives by broadening the perspective on underlying medieval conceptions about language. The paper will then discuss the case of Christine de Pizan (1365-ca. 1430), a female author writing in French. When adopting the first-person stance and writing about love, it becomes obvious that she grapples with the function attributed to the female in courtly first-person narratives. She develops several creative strategies to be in the position of a female author: distancing herself from courting and stressing her role of the widow while telling the love stories of others or speaking from the position of allegory while breaking it open. When it comes to telling a love experience, not everyone is able to say “I” and be an author, or not in the same way ‒ depending on gender.

Dirk Meyer (University of Oxford)

“You are (not) muted: gendered power structures of silence in the Shī manuscripts of Ānhuī University”

A most common phrase of the years 2020/2021 was ‘you are muted’ (or: ‘you are on mute’), followed closely by ‘unmute yourself’. The two sentences display an intriguing power structure, one where the muted finds themselves in a subordinate position to the unmuted, but nonetheless, one where the muted does have the power, within limits, to unmute themselves. Many songs of the Shī 詩 (Songs) of the States (guó 國) in China of antiquity present a similar power dynamic. Often this dynamic is gendered. More so in the Ānhuī University Manuscripts (Ān Dà Shī) of the fourth century BC than in the Máo recension of the Western Hàn (202 BC–AD 9), we find an overbearing male narrative voice which is leaving little or no room for the female to articulate a response. But the female experience generally finds a way to re-frame the often- objectifying male gaze, which then affords power to the female to take the initiative. In this article, we analyse the strategies taken in some Shī-songs of the Ān Dà Shī to reframe the male perspective, so the female experience comes to voice even if the female persona of the song remains ‘muted’.

Jennifer Guest (University of Oxford)

“Silence in the Pillow Book: the power of missing texts in the early medieval Japanese court”

The Pillow Book (Makura no sōshi), an eclectic collection of lists and personal anecdotes by the Heian lady-in-waiting Sei Shōnagon (active c. 1000CE), has often been read in terms of its presumed silences. At one level, there is its refusal to give voice to tragedy: its central figure is Shōnagon’s patron, Empress Teishi, who was ultimately sidelined by rivals and died young — but against the backdrop of a literary culture that usually elevated poignant and melancholy themes,Shōnagon wrote nothing directly about Teishi’s sad fate or the decline of her court salon. At other levels, there are the gaps Shōnagon leaves in her depiction of court life, and her use of strategic silence as a storytelling technique, with many anecdotes centred on a missing poem or allusion. This talk explores another intersecting set of silences: the recurring concern with lost or unvoiced texts that runs throughout the Pillow Book, connecting stories about memory, loyalty, and the social uses of literary knowledge. In linking these various layers of silence, I will consider how both the absence and the silent presence of certain texts can be related to the author’s position as a woman, and specifically a lady-in-waiting, suggesting how the experience and performance of texts was gendered in the Heian court, and what creative possibilities this allowed.

Lisa Indraccolo (Tallinn University)

“Girls Gone Bad – ‘Evil women’ and the gendered use of silence as a control tool in early China”

Collection of stories of virtuous types, including women, often with a strong moralizing undertone, are a rather flourishing literary genre in China since ancient times (Kinney 2014). Filial daughters, deferential wives, devoted daughters-in-law, wise and attentive mothers: these are the roles prescribed for women in early China (ca. 6th cent. B.C.–2nd cent. A.D.) that they are required to embrace and in which they are expected to thrive at different stages of their lives, setting an example for future generations (Holmgren 1981; Nylan 2002). However, there is another side to this coin. Intellectually gifted, witty, shrewd and unconventional figures of unapologetically deviant, “problematic” women are also present in the literature (Fracasso 2005). As consequence for breaking social boundaries and conventions, they are typically silenced and presented in a bad light, accused of being promiscuous and corrupting men who have the disgrace of crossing their paths (Hinsch 2012). Often – but not invariably – deprived of a voice of their own, in the received literature they are blamed and condemned without appeal – a case in point being for instance the famous dialogue between Confucius and Lady Nánzi 南子 reported in the Confucian Analects (Lúnyǔ 論語) (Milburn 2010), the content of which remains shrouded in mystery. However, despite being silenced, some of these charismatic figures still play a fundamental role in the intellectual and literary landscape of the period. Also, certain sources are deliberately ambiguous, or at least somewhat less critical, when describing these “evil women,” some of whom are actual historical figures, and even allow the possibility for them to speak up for themselves. Through the analysis of selected cases of “evil women” drawn from pre-imperial and early imperial received sources, the present paper explores the ideological, moralizing and rhetorical use of silence to control women’s behaviour in early China.

Kate Crosby (University of Oxford)

“Unheard, unseen and central: the long shadow cast over modern Theravada by early struggles with female agency”

The attitudes towards women voiced in the early Buddhist canon are inconsistent. Sure, they are capable of enlightenment. Yet after the Buddha reluctantly allows women to become nuns, he then declares that their inclusion will wreak havoc, halving like a disease the lifespan of the religion that he has spent years designing to ensure its longevity. Sure, lust is an unwholesome mental state, a problem in the beholder not the beheld. Yet the monastic-centric texts at the same time convey women as dangerous temptresses ‘even when dying’. This paper provides some examples of how this background continues to set the tone in Theravada practice, and how it has obscured for both practitioners and scholars, the centrality of female agency, both actual and symbolic, in traditional Theravada literary and meditation practices.

Thomas Crone (IKGF Erlangen–Nürnberg)
“Silence as a Sign of (Male) Powerlessness? The Case of the Western Han Manuscript 
Wang Ji

妄稽 (Ms. Baseless)”

Wang Ji is a Western Han (202–9 BCE) narrative poem obtained by Peking University in 2009, along with several other looted bamboo manuscripts. The text depicts the eponymous and explicitly fictional wife Wang Ji (literally, “Baseless” or “Unattested”) and her jealousy of the concubine/secondary wife/female slave (qie 妾) Yu Shi 虞士. Although the poem caters to the notion common at the time that women should only express dissent and criticism if it was for the benefit of their male counterparts, a closer look reveals that the domestic hierarchies and role distribution displayed by the narrative of the Wang Ji poem draw a significantly different picture. As I will argue in my paper, the silence of Wang Ji’s in-laws and husband towards her initially polite and later increasingly violent forms of protest indicates an intellectual helplessness and social powerlessness that rarely surfaces in traditionally transmitted texts from the same period. Compared to many traditional narratives, in which marriages and domestic life are generally characterized by female loyalty and obedience, Wang Ji represents an odd and provocative counter-example, highlighting the potentially adversarial nature of gender relations during the early Han era.

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

To celebrate the life and scholarship of Nigel F. Palmer, Professor of  German  Medieval Literary and Linguistic  Studies at the University of Oxford, the academic community honoured his memory with a symposium, which brought together colleagues from around the world. Their presentations spoke 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.

Friday, 19 May 2023 

10:30-11:30         Weston Library, Visiting Scholars Centre

  • Presentation of incunables and blockbooks linked with Nigel F. Palmer in the Bodleian Library by Alan Coates.

13:00-13:45             Taylor Institution Library. Main Hall

  • Welcome and introduction. Video by Jeffrey Hamburger in honour of Nigel Palmer

14:00-15:00             Taylorian Main Hall: Chair: Racha Kirakosian

  • Henrike Manuwald, ‘German-language pericopes between retelling, exegesis and prayer: the case of the Begerin Prayer Book’
  • Martina Backes and Barbara Fleith, Extraordinary or conventional? Überlegungen zu einem un­ge­wöhnlichen Bildmotiv im Begerin-Gebetbuch

14:00-15:30             Weston Library. Horton Room: Chair: Henrike Lähnemann

  • Erik Kwakkel, ‘The problem of dating medieval manuscripts’.  Recording.
  • Victor Millet and Lorena Pérez Ben, ‘‘Fragmentology’ around Hartmann von Aue’s Iwein’.  Recording.

16:00-17:30             Taylorian Main Hall: Chair: Almut Suerbaum

  • Ben Morgan, ‘Critiquing critique: how Erich Fromm’s reading of Meister Eckhart can transform contemporary conceptualisations of human flourishing’
  • Freimut Löser, ‘Latest news on Nigel Palmer’s Meister Eckhart’
  • Racha Kirakosian, ‘Philology meets visionary practice’

16:00-17:30             Weston Library: Chair: Martin Kauffmann

  • Andrew Honey, ‘‘I believe they were fixed in some low places in the Church, Chapell or House’: further investigations into the glue stains of Douce 248, a blockbook Biblia pauperum of c.1465-1470’. Recording.
  • Geert Warnar, ‘The Roman van Limborch in a European framework’. Recording.
  • Luise Morawetz, ‘Gregory the Great in Old High German: the newly discovered glosses of MS. Canon. Pat. Lat. 57’.

Saturday, 20 May 2023

A small exhibition of medieval German manuscripts used by Nigel Palmer for teaching Palaeography and History of the Book was on display in the Voltaire Room of the Taylor Institution Library, including the two manuscripts from Erfurt Charterhouse Taylor Institution Library MS. 8° Germ. 1 and MS. 8° Germ. 2 (comment by Balázs Nemes).

10:00-11:30             Taylorian Main Hall: Chair: Annette Volfing

  • Elke Brüggen, ‘Parzival-Lektüren im komplexen Zusammenspiel von Edition, Übersetzung und Kommentierung’
  • Daniela Mairhofer, ‘Almost lost in transmission: the peculiar case of a Staufer song’
  • Nikolaus Henkel, ‘Liturgie im Schulunterricht um 1500. Der Osterhymnus ‚Salve festa dies‘ des Venantius Fortunatus und seine deutsche Reimpaarübersetzung’

10:00-11:30             Taylorian Room 2: Chair: Stephen Mossman

  • Adam Poznański and Reima Välimäki, ‘Petrus Zwicker’s Cum dormirent homines: transmission history and prospects for a critical edition of a popular anti-heretical treatise’
  • Linus Ubl, ‘Palm(er)ing material culture – medieval German manuscripts in the
    National State Library of Israel’
  • Astrid Breith, ‘Locked away for love – the Vita Wilbirgis inclusae and the manuscript holdings of St. Florian (Upper Austria)’

13:00-14:30             Taylorian Main Hall: Chair: Sarah Bowden

  • Jonas Hermann, ‘What gives? Marquard von Lindau and the ›Buch von geistlicher Armut‹’
  • Anne Winston-Allen, ‘Sibilla von Bondorf’s art of reform’
  • Edmund Wareham Wanitzek, ‘Soror in Christo dilectissima: Learning and exchange in the correspondence of Nikolaus Ellenbog and his sister Barbara’

13:00-14:30             Taylorian Room 2: Chair: Elizabeth Andersen

  • Peter Rückert, ‘Bücher zwischen Kloster und Hof. Neues zur literarischen Topographie in Württemberg’
  • Monica Brinzei and Giacomo Signore, ‘The rise of ars moriendi at the University of Vienna before the printing press’
  • Nigel Harris, ‘“Nach dem text und etwen nach dem sin”. Heinrich Haller und das Cordiale de quattuor novissimis des Gerard van Vliederhoven’

15:00-16:30             Taylorian Main Hall: Chair: Christine Putzo

  • Ralph Hanna, ‘On exempla: “Hoc contra malos religiosos”‘
  • Peter Tóth, ‘The early history of the Meditationes Vitae Christi: quotations and references’
  • Hans-Jochen Schiewer, ‘Kollektive Autorschaft und Baukastenprinzip. Geistliche Literatur dominikanischer Provenienz um 1300’

15:00-16:30             Taylorian Room 2: Chair: Lydia Wegener

  • Sarah Griffin, ‘Unfolding time in a late medieval German concertina-fold almanac (SPKB, Libr. pict. A 92)
  • Youri Desplenter, ‘Newly discovered interlinear Middle Dutch translation of the Psalms (c. 1300?). Analysis and contextualization within the Middle Dutch and medieval Psalm translations’
  • Wybren Scheepsma, ‘Laudate dominum in sanctis eius: a Limburg sermon with French roots’

17:00-19:00 Old Library of St Edmund Hall

Followed by speeches in honour of Nigel F. Palmer

  • The Pro Principal of St Edmund Hall, Rob Whittaker. Recording.
  • A performance of a medieval poem by Ruth Wiederkehr, Monika Studer, Claudia Lingscheid-Andersen and Racha Kirakosian
  • Words of memory by Eva Schlotheuber and in dialogue by Hans-Jochen Schiewer and Michael Stolz

The event was supported by the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, the Meister-Eckhart-Gesellschaft, SSMLL, Oxford Medieval Studies and St Edmund Hall. Here a link to the call of papers; please contact Henrike Lähnemann if you have any comments on the content of this page.

Keynote Lecture with Lisa Fagin Davis (Boston, USA): Framing Fragments

When: Monday, 3 April 2023, 5-6.45 pm
Where: Weston Library, Lecture Theatre
Speaker: Dr Lisa Fagin Davis (Medieval Academy of America)
Admission: free, but registration is required

We are delighted to have Lisa Fagin Davis as a keynote speaker. The lecture is part of the workshop ‘Cultures of Use and Reuse. Towards a Terminological and Methodological Framework of Reframing and Recycling‘.

About the Keynote Lecture
Applying the theme of Use and Reuse to the practice of manuscript fragmentation, this lecture will address the material and ontological “framing” of leaves of dismembered manuscripts. Manuscript leaves undergo multiple types of “framing” as they journey from their medieval haptic origins to the digital realm. A parchment leaf begins as the hide on an animal’s skeletal framework, a fleshly origin whose shape is permanently imprinted on the folio. That hide is then stretched on a pergamenter’s frame for scudding and preparation for trimming and writing. The book’s binding is another framelike container that holds the leaf and provides its spatial boundaries. If a manuscript is dismembered, the leaf may find itself contained not in a binding but in a matte, the matte then framed for presentation on a wall. As we move into the digital space, images must be themselves contained in the frame of a viewer. What can we make of these various transformations and the frames that contain and constrain them?

About the Speaker
Lisa Fagin Davis received her Ph.D. in Medieval Studies from Yale University in 1993. She is a paleographer, codicologist, and bibliographer with a particular interest in pre-1600 manuscript fragments and collections in North America. She has served as the supervisor or principal investigator for several digital reconstructions of dismembered manuscripts using shared-canvas viewers and IIIF-compliant images. She has served as Executive Director of the Medieval Academy of America since 2013 and was elected to the Comité international de paléographie latine in 2019.

How to Register for the Event
If you wish to attend the keynote lecture, please register via this link.

Contact Details
For any enquires regarding the event, please contact: JProf. Dr Julia von Ditfurth (julia.von.ditfurth@kunstgeschichte.uni-freiburg.de), Dr Hannah Ryley (hannah.ryley@ell.ox.ac.uk) or Carolin Gluchowski (carolin.gluchowski@new.ox.ac.uk).

This event this generously supported by the Oxford Berlin Research Partnership, New College, Balliol College, the Centre for the Study of the Book, the Ashmolean Museum, and the Bodleian Library. We are delighted to collaborate with Henrike Lähnemann, Alexandra Franklin, Andrew Dunning, and Jim Harris.

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