Beyond the Page: Immaterial Texts in Late Medieval England

Daniel Wakelin, University of Oxford

 

April 29, 2022 - 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm @ Virtual
Detail from John Lydgate's Middle English version of Laurence Premierfait's French translation of Boccaccio's De casibus virorum illustrium

From some curious habits by scribes of late Middle English manuscripts, I shall argue that scribes were sometimes not interested in, or were even vexed by, the material form of texts. I’ll focus on the scribes’ handling of page breaks. While in some ways the division of the text into pages allowed scribes to show off their own craft process, when they decorated the division of the codex into pages, following conventions without textual function, in other ways the page breaks contributed little to the text itself, and at times scribes used other methods to override the page breaks. From such examples, I shall argue that the scribes were more interested in the continuity of the text and of the reading process which continued beyond the literal limits of the page. I’ll suggest that the scribes’ handling of page breaks adds to the story of material texts but also challenges the focus on materiality in the study of literature, suggesting other concerns that might be part of the history of reading.

Event Series

Image above: Detail of John Lydgate's Middle English version in seven-line stanzas of Laurence Premierfait's French translation of Boccaccio's De casibus virorum illustrium (Rosenbach Museum and Library, MS 439.16, fol. 9r)