The Dynamics of the Medieval Manuscript: Text Collections from a European Perspective

Project Details


This cross-European research project studied the dynamics of a number of late-medieval Dutch, English, French and German miscellany manuscripts, focusing on the highly mobile short verse narratives they contain. Characterised by the migration of works from one manuscript context to another, this cultural phenomenon was ideally suited to the HERA JRP theme 'Cultural Dynamics'. In each unique, newly formed text collection new meanings are generated, enabling us to understand the cultural identity of the compiler or commissioner of a manuscript and to investigate how cultural, social and moral heritage is conveyed to new generations.
Our comparative, multilingual approach made it possible to determine trans-European characteristics in the organisation of text collections and to analyse how new author and reader identities were created. The research was conducted by 4 PhD students, 2 Post-doctoral and 4 senior researchers in close collaboration, and culminated in a large-scale conference.

Layman's description

Modern editions of medieval literary texts give the misleading impression that they have come down to us in single-text manuscripts or well-ordered anthologies. The truth is very different. In reality, most texts, though originally composed individually, evolved and were read in multi-texts manuscripts, organised in a variety of ways. Throughout the Middle Ages, these texts were copied and recopied by scribes, to yield different manuscripts in different contexts. With each new copy and changing of context, both the works and their meanings evolved. This project was set up to investigate the dynamics of the revision and rewriting process and the implications for readers in premodern and pre-print cultures.

Key findings

The researchers identified general European characteristics in the organisation of multi-text codices, and their analysis of the cultural and social contexts enhanced the understanding of the role these codices played in forming textual communities with shared cultural and ideological interests. The factual, analytical, and interpretative findings of this research project are available in over 30 articles, four PhD dissertations, and a volume of conference proceedings. See Project website for full details.
Effective start/end date1/05/101/05/13


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