MI Hosts Winter School in Latin Paleography and Codicology

Author: Dov Honick

2020 Winter Paleography School Cohort2020 Winter School cohort. Photo by Klazina Staat.

Over winter break, faculty and students from the University of Notre Dame and peer institutions gathered to take part in the Medieval Institute’s biennial Winter School in Latin Paleography and Codicology. The January 7–17 program was led by Dr. David T. Gura, Curator of Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts at Notre Dame and Concurrent Associate Professor at the Medieval Institute.

This two-week intensive course was conducted in collaboration with the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (BAV) and hosted at Notre Dame’s Rome Global Gateway. The course introduced participants to various aspects of Latin Paleography and Western Codicology, offering a balance of theoretical and practical applications.

Participants had the opportunity to develop a mastery of abbreviation systems; the ability to identify, classify, localize, and date western book hands (ca. 1100-1500); and an understanding of the historical development and influence of Latin scripts. Western codicological principles and an introduction to analytical manuscript description allowed participants to interpret the manuscript as a complete object by utilizing physical properties such as collation, ruling patterns, and decoration in parallel with the script.

The course’s collaboration with the Vatican Library provided participants with the chance to apply skills and techniques gained from the seminars with medieval manuscripts in situ. Commenting on the program’s high academic value, Medieval Institute Ph.D. student Eleonora Celora said, “I think the best aspect was the chance to have a privileged access to the Vatican Library and put immediately into practice what we have learned in class. It was also really useful and formative to be allowed to present the results of our brief research at the final mini-conference; despite the short time (four days), we were able to have some results and identify future research for 'our' manuscripts.”

Manuscript Reading Room Bav 1BAV manuscript reading room

In addition to their work with manuscripts, participants benefited from the diverse range of scholars they met through the program. Paul Wheatley, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Theology at Notre Dame, remarked that “during lunches at the cafe within the BAV, we had numerous helpful conversations between other scholars that allowed for new insights, exposure to new research, and different perspectives that aided my research considerably. I was also able to connect with European scholars working in related fields to mine. Some of these relationships have already resulted in conversations about future collaborations and networking opportunities.”

Professor Thomas E. Burman, Robert M. Conway Director of the Medieval Institute, is pleased with the success of the program. He explained, "The Winter School in Latin Paleography and Codicology builds on a long-term relationship between the Medieval Institute and the Vatican Library and offers graduate students hands-on experience with the immense wealth of manuscripts in the Vatican Library.”

This collaboration with the BAV and with scholars from other institutions is part of the Medieval Institute's emphasis on building and maintaining relationships with academic institutions around the globe.