• Exeter Manuscripts Project

REACT at the University of Exeter

'The Exeter Manuscripts Project': illuminated pages from the Syon Abbey medieval manuscripts (University of Exeter Special Collections) as an App on an iPad.

Medieval Manuscripts to Calligraffiti exhibition image

Medieval Manuscripts to Calligraffiti image

Professor Emma Cayley speaking to ITV Westcountry about the Exeter Manuscripts Project

REACT is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council

REACT Knowledge Exchange Hub

The Exeter Manuscripts Project

Principal Investigator: Professor Emma Cayley
Creative Economy Partner: Antenna International
Awards: £30,000 REACT Project Fund May 2013 (FEC) and £6,250 HEFCE HEIF Open Innovation Fund April 2012
Professor Emma Cayley, Modern Languages, is leading a project to build an ipad app to explore medieval manuscripts and culture, in partnership with Antenna International. Antenna International and Emma are conducting market research into how such an app might work to explore manuscripts, medieval poetry and game culture, through the tenth century Exeter Book held at Exeter Cathedral and the Syon Abbey medieval manuscripts in Special Collections at the University of Exeter.

The project aims to create an iPad app to introduce young people to the amazing world of medieval manuscripts. The REACT HEIF award allowed the project to organise focus groups and workshops in schools, as well as an exhibition at the Cathedral, to explore how young people may want to engage with such an app. 

Through the app users will go on a journey into the past to discover the history of the places the manuscripts come from and the people and communities that made and owned these incredible and beautiful objects. They will be able to engage directly with images and stories from the manuscripts themselves, luxuriating in the glorious illuminations, and participating in the narratives. They will help to design the App, and feed into its development, becoming co-creators as well as detectives tracing our local heritage. 

We are so lucky in Devon to have so many of these fabulous and important objects on our doorstep (such as the famous tenth century Exeter Book, kept in the Cathedral Library). The Exeter Book contains the world’s largest collection of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) poetry, and features the Exeter Riddles: a collection of ninety-six literary enigmas. The book itself is an enigma, with pages missing or partially burned away. It has been used and abused over the course of its ten centuries of life, and its survival is nothing short of miraculous. The poetry contained within the Exeter Book teaches us some fundamental and simple human truths about love and death, loss and longing, wisdom and vanity. 

People usually never see these manuscripts as they are preserved in secure storage. Manuscript study is not part of a traditional school curriculum. The Exeter Manuscripts project aims to reverse that invisibility and that neglect, and help Devon to rediscover its written heritage.

For information on the rapid prototyping of the Exeter manuscripts app, please visit the Antenna Lab website. The site includes a Storify outlining the development of the App from wireframe to working prototype. 

Additionally, PhD candidate Peter Knowles has a blog relating to gaming on the Antenna website. 

'The Exeter Manuscripts Project': illuminated pages from the Syon Abbey medieval manuscripts (University of Exeter Special Collections) as an App on an iPad.

‘From Medieval Manuscripts to ‘Calligraffiti’: Discovering Exeter’s Written Heritage’

An exhibition of medieval and modern books and book-making was held in the Chapel of St James in Exeter Cathedral from Tuesday 23 October until Sunday 4 November 2012. The exhibition explored Devon’s written heritage from the earliest medieval manuscripts kept in the Cathedral Library and Special Collections at the University of Exeter, through the dawn of printing and early printed books, to modern calligraphy in the shape of Gospels handwritten and painted in the 1950s, and the arrival of the e-book and kindle. In addition, the exhibition featured artwork created by local Devon schoolchildren inspired by manuscript calligraphy and by the art of ‘calligraffiti’.

‘Calligraffiti’ is a fusion of calligraphy and graffiti created by Dutch artist Niels ‘Shoe’ Meulman (www.calligraffiti.nl), or as he puts it, ‘traditional handwriting with a metropolitan attitude’. A film commissioned as a backdrop for the exhibition from local firm Cricklepit Media shows medieval manuscripts up close, as well as demonstrating the art of modern calligraphy.

From Medieval Manuscripts to Calligraffiti booklet (pdf)

App brings to life 10th century Exeter book for Devon children

Professor Cayley will be giving a free public lecture at 12.30 on Friday 24 January at the Pearson Room, Exeter Cathedral, on the app’s development.

App to unlock 10th century secrets

www.theexeterdaily.co.uk 23 January 2014

A new app brings to life tenth century Exeter Book for Devon children

University of Exeter, 22 January 2014 

New app unlocks secrets of 1,000-year-old Exeter book

www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/   22 January 2014

Medieval manuscripts to get technological makeover

University of Exeter, 29 October 2012

Medieval book gets modern treatment

ITV Westcountry, 5 November 2012