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Manuscript Studies
Medieval and Early Modern

III. Topics in the History of the Codex (Introduction to Codicology)


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Codicology is the study of the "codex" and, in particular, the physical makeup and modes of production of a given volume. Among the considerations in the study of codicology are the following (listed here in note form):

Some additional terminology:

Provenance: may designate either the place of origin of a manuscript or the various places where the manuscript has been preserved. It is best used to designate the place of origin or the single earliest known place of preservation.

"Terminus a quo": "the terminal point from which"; equivalent to "terminus ante quem non," the starting point, the earliest possible date in a range of dates (of a manuscript's production, for instance).

"Terminus ad quem": "the terminal point to which"; equivalent to "terminus post quem non," the terminal point, the latest possible date in a range of dates (of a manuscript's production, for instance).

Palimpsests: when a manuscript or a portion of a manuscript is rubbed/scraped off and overwritten a second time (in a period when writing material expensive, not uncommon); depending on the composition of the ink, it is sometimes possible to read the original under flourescent light. One of the most famous palimpsestic discoveries concerns a "lost" work of Cicero's: from Macrobius and others, we knew that Cicero had written a work called De re publica, but until relatively recently it was considered lost. In 1820, Cardinal Angelo Mai, Prefect of the Vatican Library, discovered most of the first and second books and fragments of the rest of the work in a palimpsest underneath a copy of St. Augustine's Enarrationes in Psalmos (BAV Codex Vaticanus 5757(V)). So we now have what is estimated to be about 1/4 of Cicero's original text of 6 books.


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[ Course Notes: Introduction ] | [ I. Towards a definition of "manuscript studies" ] | [ I.ii. The four branches of bibliographical study ] | [ I.iii. Topics in the social history of texts ] | [ II. Diplomatics ] | [ III. Codicology ] | [ III.ii. Decoration and Illumination ] | [ IV. Paleography ] | [ IV.ii. Historical Notes ] | [ IV.iii. Writing Implements ] | [ IV.iv. Letter Formation ] | [ IV.v. Special Characters in English Manuscripts ] | [ IV.vi. Scribal Abbreviations ] | [ IV.vii. Punctuation ] | [ IV.viii. Paleographical sample: William Herebert, OFM (early fourteenth-century England) ] | [ Herebert sample, with transcription ] | [ Herebert sample: enlargement of full page reproduced at high resolution ] | [ V. Textual analysis (James E. Thorpe) ] | [ V.ii. Scribal error ] | [ V.iii. Kinds of edition ] | [ V.iv. Examples of over emendation on insufficient grounds ] | [ VI. Linguistic competence (an example): An Outline History of the English Language ] | [ VII. Libraries and archives: ] | [ VII.ii. British Library Manuscript Collections ] | [ VII.iii. Bodleian Library Manuscript Collections ]


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© 1998 Stephen R. Reimer
English; University of Alberta; Edmonton, Canada
All rights reserved.
Created: 2 Dec. 1998; Last revised: 2 Dec. 1998

email: Stephen.Reimer@UAlberta.Ca
URL: http://www.ualberta.ca/~sreimer/ms-course.htm