Mosaic of Saint Luke at San Vitale

Codicology and Latin Paleography

Center for Renaissance Studies
The Newberry Library
Winter 2008

" Writing is excessive drudgery. It crooks your back,
it dims your sight, it twists your stomach and your sides."

End of Term Party (March 14, 2008)

Image of the 2008 codicology class
Pictured (L-R): Tom Juettner, Colleen Dunn, Arthur Russell, Andrew Higl, Christina Petty,
Stacee Bucciarelli, Elise Boneau, Brady Spangenberg, Erika Tanács, Karen Christianson,
Thomas Greene, Amy Oberlin, Joshua Smith, Daniel O'Gorman, Megan McNamee

This seminar provides students with a firm foundation in the discipline of codicology (the study of the manuscript book) and introduces them both to the forms of script used in writing Latin in the Middle Ages and to the cultural history of the medieval book. Students become familiar with the materials and techniques of medieval book production, develop their skills in transcribing Latin from original sources, and explore the role of the book in medieval society. Because so much of what we know about the Middle Ages is derived from the study of manuscripts, this seminar—intended for medievalists from across the disciplines—provides students with a fundamental skill for the study of literature (both Latin and vernacular), intellectual history, social history, ecclesiastical history, art history, and music history. It also serves to prepare students for the subsequent study of documentary hands. The course draws on the Newberry Library’s manuscript holdings in demonstrating the physical properties of the manuscript book, as sources for student transcription assignments, and as potential topics for term papers.

Prerequisite: one semester of college Latin or equivalent

All students must register with the Center for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library. Please call 312-255-3514 or send an e-mail message to