This syllabus is subject to change. The latest version on this website is the binding syllabus.
Spring 2012
Office: Bartlett 259
Office Hours: Wed and by appointment.
545-6598 | sharris at


This course introduces palaeography, codicology, libraries, and the book trade from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern period. We meet Wednesdays, 4:40pm - 7:10pm in Bartlett 203 (unless otherwise noted).


We will be using:

  1. CLEMENS, R. and T. GRAHAM. Introduction to Manuscript Studies. Cornell UP, 2008. $40
  2. BISCHOFF, B. Manuscripts and Libraries in the Age of Charlemagne.
  3. DE HAMEL, Christopher. A History of Illuminated Manuscripts. Phaidon, 1997. $23 - $35

All are available at Amherst Book in Amherst (8 Main St).

Recommended readings will be on reserve at Du Bois, handed out, or available electronically. Manuals and guides will be on reservation at Amherst's Frost Library in the Archives & Special Collections.

To Download:

Studies on Reserve:

  • SHARPE, Richard. Titulus: Identifying Medieval Manuscripts.
  • LAPIDGE, Michael. The Anglo-Saxon Library. Oxford UP, 1994.
  • HINDMAN, S. Printing the Written Word.
  • IRVINE, M. Grammatica.
  • RICHÉ, P. Education and Culture.
  • for more, see Course Resources.

Course Links:



The general objectives of this course are to have you engage knowledgeably with manuscripts and library collections; to encourage a working knowledge of Latin and Insular palaeography and codicology; and to discuss the relationship between the material culture of the book and literature.


You will each be working on a particular manuscript or incunabula at Amherst (especially recommended), Smith, Mount Holyoke, or the Renaissance Center (you may also work at Dartmouth, Yale, Harvard, Brown, UConn, or with any nearby collection, if you require it). The work entails producing a 1) detailed catalogue description with a partial diplomatic text and a stemma of text versions, 2) an annotated bibliography, 3) a short presentation on your codex, and 4) a final report which contextualizes your codex in the larger cultural world in which it was produced. You will also be asked to give periodic updates of your progress.

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections has made a generous and concerted effort to allow us to access their collection.


The breakdown of your class grade is as follows:

  1. catalogue description 35%
  2. bibliography 20%
  3. presentation 10%
  4. Nachleben or Cultural Context 35%


I encourage you to meet with me at least once during the semester. Please let me know beforehand if you want to meet during my office hours. Otherwise, please make an appointment to meet with me at a time convenient to you and I will try to oblige. I would also like to meet with you in the presence of your project codex. That will be arranged during class.


NOTE 1: Please make and keep a copy of all your assignments. That copy may be a disc copy. You do not want to risk your work to the caprices of an indifferent fate. Also, in case any difficulties arise with respect to misplaced assignments or with respect to discrepancies between your records and my own, I will accept the evidence of your computer system's dating function. For your own peace of mind, I suggest that you lock any document on the day it is due. That will prevent your computer's operating system from associating your document with a later date.

NOTE 2: The course schedule is subject to change. It is not to be construed as a substitute for your attendance or as a catalogue of all the information for which you are responsible. All changes will be announced with a reasonable lead time. This syllabus constitutes a binding contract. If you do not agree with any of the provisions set herein or if you foresee disagreeing with any of the provisions which may reasonably be added during the course of the term, then you are free to drop this class within the time allotted by the university.

NOTE 3:All material pertaining to this course is copyrighted material and is subject to international and US laws of copyright.