Pre-print UX

Everything today is about user experience. The standard ISO definition of user experience has it as ‘a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service’. The earliest case of user experience has to do with books before the age of print. Readers’ engagement with manuscriptsContinue reading “Pre-print UX”

Circles and lines

The ancient and medieval idea of ‘old’ is very different from our own. Modern culture was the first to introduce the notion of historical distance in a way that was significant enough to bring a shift in our consciousness. For the premodern mind, old meant old in the way our grandparents are old. To getContinue reading “Circles and lines”

Classical anti-classicism

For the ancient Romans, the past was dominated by Greece and Greek classicism, just like the Renaissance and most of our modern period were dominated by classical antiquity. In fact, our modern love affair with the classical past and classical authors starts with the Paduan scholar and poet Lovato Lovati (1241–1309). He wrote: ‘Do you despiseContinue reading “Classical anti-classicism”

Ten medieval ways to hold a book

The good thing with illuminated manuscripts of books of the Old Testament is that there is great scope for depicting scribes, books, scrolls, pens, desks, and other elements of the medieval culture of writing and book-making. Manuscript Engelberg 76, produced in the mid 12th century at the Benedictine Abbey of Engelberg in Switzerland , oneContinue reading “Ten medieval ways to hold a book”

Authors policing the page

The hyper-literacy of medieval glossed books can sometimes achieve postmodernist levels. In a 12th century Psalter (Cambridge Trinity College B.5.4) that once belonged to the Anglo-Norman scholar Herbert of Bosham (active 1162-1189), the main text of the Psalms is glossed with commentaries from different patristic and early medieval sources (Augustine, Jerome, Cassiodorus, etc). The mainContinue reading “Authors policing the page”

How to write and publish in the Middle Ages: Eadmer and St Anselm

We moderns easily forget that the medieval texts we read in manuscript or in print are the result of a complex process of composition; that writers didn’t just ‘pen’ words and sentences as they came to them; that we are not the only ones to struggle on the agonising road from ‘idea’ to ‘final draft’.Continue reading “How to write and publish in the Middle Ages: Eadmer and St Anselm”

Everything is code, everything is number. And the medievals knew this, of course.

Modern biology has been telling us that all living matter may be reduced to code stored in the DNA. Physics may be reduced to mathematical formulae, which in turn can be distilled down to numbers, the most elusive of all our objects of thought. This sounds advanced and modern enough, but, as a classical scholarContinue reading “Everything is code, everything is number. And the medievals knew this, of course.”

The polyglot and poly-alphabetical Middle Ages

An exceptional collection of seven alphabets (two Hebrew, one Greek, one ‘Chaldaean’, one ‘Egyptian’, one runic, and one of obscure origin entitled ‘Norma’) is preserved in a manuscript in the Vatican library (Reg.lat.338) composed in Northern France or perhaps Germany and dating, probably, from the first half of the 9th century AD.  Written in CarolineContinue reading “The polyglot and poly-alphabetical Middle Ages”

Moral relativism in the medieval church: St Nicholas

Today’s the feast of St. Nicholas, the 4th-century bishop of Myra (that’s in present-day Turkey). I thought it suitable to share with you a story from the life of the saint whose name I bear (as my middle name).  There were many lives of St. Nicholas written in the Middle Ages, but Jacobus de Voragine’sContinue reading “Moral relativism in the medieval church: St Nicholas”

England vs. Italy in medieval records. Do we need a winner?

This evening’s joint session of late Medieval and early Modern Italian seminars at the IHR was one of those rare occasions where historians leave behind their scholarly shell and show what historical debate is all about. This meeting’s agonistic element lay in the provocative title ‘England and Italy: Which holds the Record for Records?’, which hadContinue reading “England vs. Italy in medieval records. Do we need a winner?”