Raymond Clemens, Timothy Graham. Introduction to Manuscript Studies. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007. xvi + 301 pp. $85.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8014-3863-9; $39.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8014-8708-8.
Reviewed by Andrew Reeves (Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto)
Published on H-German (March, 2009)
Commissioned by Susan R. Boettcher
A New, Definitive Introduction
Investigating a manuscript in situ can often be vexing both to the experienced scholar and the novice. It requires at least a passing familiarity with the disciplines of paleography, codicology, and diplomatics, and often involves trying to do a large amount of work during a research trip of limited duration. In light of these difficulties, a need has long been felt for a comprehensive guide to the basic necessities involved in examining codices and diplomatic materials. Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham's Introduction to Manuscript Studies is such a book. A practical guide to the examination of a manuscript, it will furnish a strong preparation for a visit to a library or archive and is also informative on the latest scholarship in the various fields that comprise manuscript studies. This book is an outstanding production, showing exquisite craft and attention to detail. The acknowledgements section reads like a Who's Who in the field of medieval studies, and little if anything necessary for study of a codex is omitted.
The book is divided into three sections, dealing with the original production of a manuscript, how to examine it, and the various genres of manuscript that the scholar is likely to encounter. The first part of the book explains how a manuscript was produced, beginning with a description of the production of the parchment and continuing with discussions of binding, writing, glossing, and storing. The final chapter of this section describes medieval libraries and their evolution, from the monastic collections kept throughout a house in chests, cabinets, and lecterns to the university library with circulating and non-circulating collections. This discussion of libraries, much of it based on the outstanding scholarship of Richard and Mary Rouse, is particularly germane to the study of a manuscript, since the subject of where and under what conditions a book was kept are almost as important to the study of a codex as the information found within it.
Part 2, the guide to examining a manuscript, is the most useful part of the book. Starting with the steps necessary to prepare for a visit to a library or archive, it goes through the practical aspects of studying a manuscript, from making sense of its quire arrangements to understanding marks of ownership and colophons. After thoroughly explaining how to carry out a descriptio codicis, Clemens and Graham provide the conventions for transcribing the text in a manuscript and how to make use of its punctuation, closing with a discussion of the major book hand of western Europe from Merovingian scripts to the humanistic book hands of the fifteenth century. This section not only provides plates with examples of charter- and book hands, it also incorporates transcription exercises in order to build familiarity with the scripts and their abbreviations. One might offer only two criticisms of this chapter (or, indeed, of the entire book). First, the addition of line numbers on or next to the plates would have made for easier reference to features of letters described in the text. In addition, one wonders why book hands prior to Luxeuil miniscule were not included: a transcription exercise on Visigothic script in particular would have been helpful. These minor matters aside, armed with the information in the second part of the work, a scholar will acquire enough knowledge in the relevant disciplines to be able to describe and transcribe a manuscript according to accepted norms.
Part 2 of the book is reason enough for any researcher in a field of medieval or Renaissance studies to own it. The third part, which describes the various types of manuscripts the scholar will encounter, is likewise quite useful. It includes a section on diplomatics that is at least as thorough as the late Father Leonard E. Boyle's chapter on that subject in James Powell's Medieval Studies: An Introduction (1992). This chapter is only one in a section of the book that also has chapters on bibles, maps, books of hours, and liturgical manuscripts, each one covered with the same attention to detail. The chapter on liturgical books, for example, clearly and succinctly explains how to read the calendar found in the front of a liturgical manual.
The book is lavishly illustrated with almost two hundred color plates, with most of the examples of manuscripts coming from the extensive holdings of Chicago's Newberry Library. These ample plates allow for the reader to see the characteristics of manuscripts described in the text of the book, and they help the reader to gain an understanding of the sheer physicality of the codex, roll, or charter where the raw materials of medieval literary and historical studies are found.
The work goes beyond practical usefulness in examining a manuscript, although this usefulness is perhaps its greatest strength. It also provides an up-to-date account of the state of scholarship in the areas of diplomatics, codicology, paleography, and art history, and its references direct a user to the many works in these fields that go into much greater detail. The bibliography covers well over a century of works in various fields touching on manuscript studies, from such stalwarts as Bernard Bischoff and E. A. Lowe to more recent lights like Albert Derolez. Neither do Clemens and Graham neglect the natural sciences and technology--they provide descriptions of the most recent advances in reading otherwise unreadable manuscripts while at the same time being cautious enough to note that in the past, the most advanced techniques of deciphering a manuscript have often had dire consequences for the next generation of readers. The first part of the book, concerning the preparation of a manuscript, goes into detail not only as to what types of inks were used, but also the chemical compositions and methods of production of the inks and parchments. Thus we learn how the green ink used in tenth- and eleventh-century Britain was made from copper filings, and also the chemical composition of the lead-white pigment used in many manuscripts (2PbCO3).
In addition praising the authors, we also should thank Barbara Rosenwein for proposing this book to Cornell University Press and to Jane Ackerman for seeing the project through. This book will make a valuable core to the syllabus of any paleography or codicology seminar and will also quickly become the standard for anyone seeking to carry out manuscript research. It is in every way a success.
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Andrew Reeves. Review of Clemens, Raymond; Graham, Timothy, Introduction to Manuscript Studies.
H-German, H-Net Reviews.
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