Fleshing out the text: The transcendent manuscript in the digital age

Abstract

A medieval manuscript or document was crafted from the scraped and prepared skin of an animal, written upon with inks made from oak gall or crushed insects by the hand of a scribe who sometimes found the task spiritually inspiring, though physically arduous. The manuscripts were bound together with linen threads, often meticulously constructed and executed, but are now metaphorically dismembered for critical editions and academic studies, or literally broken up for digitization by expert scholarly teams, or for resale by unscrupulous booksellers. The textual object, though – the codex, document or remnants of codices – represents in its actual, real-world embodiment one of the most corporeal, fleshy and intimate links to peoples and cultures from centuries past. This article will seek to consider the bodies of books, their fleshy wholeness (even as fragments or single-leaf documents), and the ways in which their heft, their voluminousness and their textual potential are elided by modern scholarly techniques and representations.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Figure 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    TEXT with small capitals here consistently represents the superordinate of a notional semantic field that includes specific instantiations of ‘text’ – as the written words on a page, ‘paratext,’ ‘epitext,’ ‘context’ (Barry, 2007). It is effectively synonymous with the term I neologize here – ‘plenitext.’

  2. 2.

    Thanks to Peter Stokes for this reference.

References

  1. Barry, P. 2007. Literature in Contexts. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  2. British Library Digitised Manuscripts. 2013. http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/.

  3. Codex Sinaiticus. 2009. http://codexsinaiticus.org/en/.

  4. Carriere, J. and U. Eco . 2012. This is Not the End of the Book. Chicago, IL: Northwestern University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Clark, C. 1954. Appendix. In The Peterborough Chronicle. The Bodleian Manuscript Laud Misc. 636, ed. D. Whitelock, Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile. Copenhagen, Denmark: Rosenkilde and Bagger.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Cook, E.T. and A. Wedderburn, eds. 1904. The Works of John Ruskin, Vol. 39. London: George Allen.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Da Rold, O., T. Kato, M. Swan and E. Treharne . 2010. The Production and Use of English Manuscripts, 1020 to 1220. Leicester, UK: University of Leicester.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Endres, B. 2012. 3D Lichfield [St Chad’s or Llandeilo] Gospels. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MILnCIZCuGw.

  9. Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR). 2009. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), http://www.ifla.org/publications/functional-requirements-for-bibliographic-records.

  10. Geddes, J. ed. 2003. The St Albans Psalter. Aberdeen, UK: University of Aberdeen.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Gibson, M., T.A. Heslop and R. Pfaff, eds. 1992. The Eadwine Psalter. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Gill, E. 1942. Last Essays. Oxford, UK: Alden Press.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Green, M. 2013. Seeing with New Eyes: Rediscovering Medieval Manuscripts in a Digital Age, http://nyamcenterforhistory.org/2013/08/07/seeing-with-new-eyes-rediscovering-medieval-manuscripts-in-a-digital-age/.

  14. Harsley, F., ed. 1889. The Eadwine Psalter. Early English Text Society o.s. 92. London: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Homes Dudden, F., trans. 1905. Gregory the Great: His Place in History and Thought, Vol. 2. New York: Longman.

    Google Scholar 

  16. James, M.R, ed. 1935. The Canterbury Psalter. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. James, W. 1890. The Principles of Psychology, Vol. 2. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Kirschenbaum, M. 2008. Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. McKenzie, D.F. 1999. Bibliography and Sociology of the Text. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Merleau-Ponty, M. 2002. The Phenomenology of Perception. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Nichols, S. 1990. Introduction: Philology in a Manuscript Culture. Speculum 65: 1–10.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Onians, J. 1992. Architecture, Metaphor and the Mind. Architectural History 35: 192–207.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Oxford English Dictionary (OED). 1989. http://www.oed.com.

  24. Parker on the Web. 2013. http://parkerweb.stanford.edu/parker.

  25. St. Louis Art Museum. 2013. http://www.slam.org/emuseum/code/emuseum.asp?style=Browse&currentrecord=1&page=search&profile=objects&searchdesc=23:1989&quicksearch=23:1989&newvalues=1&newstyle=single&newcurrentrecord=1.

  26. Treharne, E. 2012. Living Through Conquest: The Politics of Early English, 1020 to 1220. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Venice Iliad Project. 2011. http://www.homermultitext.org.

  28. Zumthor, P. 1992. Toward a Medieval Poetics, trans. P. Bennett. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Treharne, E. Fleshing out the text: The transcendent manuscript in the digital age. Postmedieval 4, 465–478 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1057/pmed.2013.36

Download citation