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M-20. Introduction to Western Codicology

Albert Derolez

The principles, bibliography, and methodology of the analysis and description of Western medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. The course includes a survey of the development of the physical features of manuscript books and practical work by the students on particular points. Applicants must have considerable background in the historical humanities, and a good basic knowledge of Latin and Latin paleography is needed.

Traditional research on manuscripts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance is based principally on the study of script and illumination. Without neglecting these important aspects, this course will show that there are other – and sometimes more conclusive – means to approach the codex and to uncover the information it conveys. The course will deal with manuscript materials, structure, layout, script and decoration, showing how to investigate and describe these features.

It will consist of both lecture and work sessions. The first will be based on a discussion of PowerPoint slides, photographs and the specialized literature. During work sessions, students will view manuscript fragments and complete manuscripts in the possession of the Rare Book School and UVA libraries and perform tasks based on these and on printed catalogs of manuscripts. Students will have the opportunity to study many more manuscripts during the field trip to one or more libraries in Washington, DC.

In their personal statements, applicants are required to describe their degree of training in Latin and paleography.

N.B., The tuition for this course is $1295 owing to the expenses associated with the scheduled full-day (roughly 6 am–8 pm) field trip on Wednesday.

Course Resources

  • Preliminary Reading List
  • Evaluations for this course:

Course History

1987

Albert Derolez has taught this course many times since 1987.