The diary of a medieval scribe

Astonishingly, there are no surviving memoirs of ancient or medieval scribes. For all the writing these people did over the centuries, one would hope that at least one would turn the quill towards the act of scribal copying itself and offer some insights to those outside the profession. The scribes’ only testament are the written … Continue reading The diary of a medieval scribe

The memory of places, the places of memory

As I’m on holiday this week, I’ll let Cicero lead today’s rant. And he has a story about how the method of memorizing information by visually modelling it in the mind – the so called method of loci – once doubled as a forensic tool. It later became one of the features of the medieval … Continue reading The memory of places, the places of memory

An archetype in search of copies

Literature in the manuscript age is a living organism, breathing its progeny out in the attempt to give the geniture a chance to extend its longevity despite the perils of existence. Before the deus ex machina of machine duplication, before the printing press and the instant multiplication of electronic media, books struggled to outlive their … Continue reading An archetype in search of copies

The lunatic library

Last February, the news came that Umberto Eco’s library would pass under the protection of the Italian state. His modern library, including his archives, would be preserved at the University of Bologna, while Eco’s ancient library would be kept by the Braidense National Library in Milan. Despite becoming one of the world’s leading medievalists and … Continue reading The lunatic library