Perceptions of Medieval Manuscripts: The Phenomenal Book
Perceptions of Medieval Manuscripts takes as its starting point an understanding that a medieval book is a whole object at every point of its long history. As such, medieval books can be studied most profitably in a holistic manner as objects-in-the-world. This means readers might profitably account for all aspects of the manuscript in their observations, from the main texts that dominate the codex to the marginal notes, glosses, names, and interventions made through time. This holistic approach allows us to tell the story of the book's life from the moment of its production to its use, collection, breaking-up, and digitization--all aspects of what can be termed 'dynamic architextuality'.
The ten chapters include detailed readings of texts that explain the processes of manuscript manufacture and writing, taking in invisible components of the book that show the joy and delight clearly felt by producers and consumers. Chapters investigate the filling of manuscripts' blank spaces, presenting some texts never examined before, and assessing how books were conceived and understood to function. Manuscripts' heft and solidness can be seen, too, in the depictions of miniature books in medieval illustrations. Early manuscripts thus become archives and witnesses to individual and collective memories, best read as 'relics of existence', as Maurice Merleau-Ponty describes things. As such, it is urgent that practices fragmenting the manuscript through book-breaking or digital display are understood in the context of the book's wholeness. Readers of this study will find chapters on multiple aspects of medieval bookness in the distant past, the present, and in the assurance of the future continuity of this most fascinating of cultural artefacts.
About the Author
I am a Welsh medievalist with specializations in manuscript studies, archives, information technologies, and early British literature. I have published widely in this area, focusing on religious poetry and prose, and manuscripts from c.600 to c.1300. I teach core courses in British Literary History, on Text Technologies, and Palaeography and Archival Studies. I supervise honors students and graduate students working in early literature, Book History, and Digital Humanities and I am committed to providing a supportive and ethical environment in all my work. My current projects focus on death and trauma, on manuscripts and on the long history of writing systems. I am co-editing a revised version of N. R. Ker’s Catalogue of Manuscripts containing Anglo-Saxon for Oxford University Press (2025). I recently published Perceptions of Medieval Manuscripts: The Phenomenal Book with OUP in 2021; A Very Short Introduction to Medieval Literature (OUP, 2015); Living Through Conquest: The Politics of Early English (OUP, 2012); and the Cambridge Companion to British Medieval Manuscripts, co-edited with Dr Orietta Da Rold for CambridgeUP in 2020.
I am the Director of Stanford Text Technologies (https://texttechnologies.stanford.edu), and, with Claude Willan, published Text Technologies: A History in 2019 (StanfordUP). Other projects include CyberText Technologies; research into the long history of personal archives; and Medieval Networks of Memory with Mateusz Fafinski, which analyzes two thirteenth-century mortuary rolls. Text Technologies' initiatives include an annual collegium now in its seventh year: the first, on “Distortion” was published as Textual Distortion in 2017; the fourth was published by Routledge as Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age in 2020. I am the Principal Investigator of the NEH-Funded 'Stanford Global Currents' (https://globalcurrents.stanford.edu/) and Co-PI of the AHRC-funded research project and ebook, The Production and Use of English Manuscripts, 1060 to 1220 (Leicester, 2010; version 2.0 https://em1060.stanford.edu/). With Benjamin Albritton, I run Stanford Manuscript Studies; and with Thomas Mullaney and Kathryn Starkey, I co-direct SILICON (https://silicon.stanford.edu/).
I have been an American Philosophical Society Franklin Fellow, a Princeton Procter Fellow, and a Fellow of the Stanford Clayman Institute for Gender Studies. I'm a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries; a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society; an Honorary Lifetime Fellow of the English Assocation (and former Chair and President); and a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales. In April 2021, I became a Trustee of the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth (https://www.llgc.org.uk/).