Voices from the edge

vfte_header_firstWelcome to the WordPress Page of our research project: Marginal Scholarship. The Practice of Learning in the Early Middle Ages (c. 800-c. 1000). In this project, we try to understand the phenomenon of writing in the blank space of early medieval manuscripts — margins, space between the lines, and fly leaves.

In the age of the printed book, writing in the margin is often viewed as a disgrace: a violation of the beauty and integrity of the book. But in the world of handwritten books, this was completely different. Here, the purpose of annotations in the margins and interlinear spaces was often to enrich the text with explanation, additional information, references to other works, comments of a critical nature, or sheer approval. This is what makes the activity of the readers and students in the margins so valuable: they offer us a peek over the shoulder of the medieval scholar, sitting above the manuscript in question, and allow us a flash insight into his (or her) thinking. A thousand years seem to melt away when looking at the scribblings of these medieval scribes. At the same time, however, they are often very hard to interpret and understand, being so distant to our own ways of reading and writing in books. It is our goal to map the territory for the first time, to try and find patterns in the mass of material history has left us.

We intend to write regular blogposts of our newest, strangest, funniest encounters, and hope to get responses from all of you.


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