The social issues raised in this type of study will include (but by no means be confined to) the following:
I was asked by a reader for my source associating the "agents of Robert Harley" with the rescue of manuscripts from "fishmongers and bread sellers," which proved to be more of a challenge than I at first thought. While I still feel confident that I read this somewhere, it does not seem to be in the Diaries of Humphrey Wanley nor in the Catalogue of the Harleian Collection, where one would expect to find it. Further, by the time of Harley the period of the more "heroic" rescue of medieval manuscripts had mostly passed (although servants looking for paper with which to build a fire continued to be a significant danger). The next page, then, summarizes what we learn from Leland, Bale, and others about the rescue of medieval manuscripts after the Dissolution of the monasteries; fishmongers and bread sellers do not feature prominently, but grocers, soap-sellers, tobacconists, and servants lighting fires do—and there will be a couple of fishmongers involved before the story ends (my summary of these researches are found on the next, The Rescue of Manuscripts, page).
[ 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 ] | I.iii.a The "Rescue" of Medieval Manuscripts from Grocers and Fishmongers | [ 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 ]