Introduction to Medieval Palaeography (HISM401)

StaffDr Helen Foxhall Forbes - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level7
Pre-requisitesThose of entry to the MA programme
Duration of Module Term 1: 6 weeks;

Module aims

This module will focus on practical skills. The main aims of this module are to introduce students to the study of manuscripts, palaeography and codicology, and to provide them with the basic skills needed for reading, using and understanding medieval manuscript material. To this end, the module aims to teach students how to read and to understand the technical descriptions of manuscripts in catalogues, and to direct students towards the key bibliography on medieval scripts, facsimiles, and manuals of abbreviation. It aims to teach students the basic principles of palaeography, including the rules for transcription, the main types of script and their development, and systems of abbreviation; and to introduce students to basic codicology.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. At the end of the module students should be able to recognise the letter-forms of the main varieties of medieval script, to know how to decode abbreviations and ligatures, to understand the rules of transcription and to begin to transcribe from reproductions with some accuracy; and to know the basic principles of manuscript descriptions

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 2. Students should demonstrate the ability to read and transcribe a variety of script forms using appropriate bibliographical aids.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 3. Capacity for independent critical study and thought
  • 4. The ability to apply key bibliographical skills (including the use of on-line finding aids).
  • 5. The ability to follow bibliographical leads and to use dictionaries and lists of abbreviations as appropriate
  • 6. Students should have the capacity to work as an individual and to work with a tutor and peers in an independent, constructive and responsive way (e.g. lead a group discussion or task).

Syllabus plan

Week 1: Introduction; Capital scripts
Week 2: Insular scripts; Caroline minuscule
Week 3: Romanesque minuscule
Week 4: Gothic formal script
Week 5: Informal script (Gothic and earlier)
Week 6: Humanistic script; codicology

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities12seminars
Guided independent study138Private study and preparation

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Portfolio 1004000 words 1-6Individual feedback through personal tutorials

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Michelle P. Brown, A Guide to Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600 (London: British Museum Publications, 1990)
Bernard Bischoff, Latin Palaeography. A Bibliographical Introduction, transl. D. Crinn and D. Ganz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990)
A Palaeographer's View: Selected Writings of Julian Brown, ed. J. Bately, M. Brown and J. Roberts (London: Harvey Miller,1993)
The Cambridge history of the book in Britain. Vol. 1, c.400-1100, ed. Richard Gameson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)
S. Harrison Thomson, Latin Bookhands of the Later Middle Ages, 1100-1500 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969)
The Cambridge history of the book in Britain. Vol. 2, 1100-1400, ed. Nigel Morgan and Rodney M. Thomson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)
M. B. Parkes, English Cursive Bookhands 1250-1500 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969)

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Available as distance learning?