Dr James Freeman (Cambridge University Library)
Full day - from 10.00 to 17.00
Maximum: 16 students
Venue: Senate House

Codicology is the study of the book as a physical object.  Participants will learn how the components of medieval books were prepared and assembled.  The course will show students how to identify and interpret evidence of these processes that survives within medieval books, and will provide a solid grounding in the technical vocabulary used to describe them.  Students will also be shown how to handle and examine manuscripts correctly.  Such knowledge is essential for anyone contemplating or engaged upon first-hand work with medieval books.

Students can choose to follow one, two or three days of codicology, but are encouraged to take all three.  Five places for day 2 will initially be allocated to persons attending day 1 and five places for day 3 will initially be allocated to students of both day 1 and day 2; the rest of the places will be available on a first come first served basis.


Bernhard Bischoff, Latin palaeography: antiquity and the Middle Ages, trans. Daíbhí Ó Cróinín and David Ganz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990): chapter on ‘Codicology’.

Raymond Clemens & Timothy Graham, Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Ithaca: New York University Press, 2007). 

Richard Gameson (ed.), Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, vol. I: c. 400-1100 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011): Chapter 2. 

Christopher de Hamel, Scribes and Illuminators (London: British Museum Press, 1992). 

Nigel J. Morgan & Rodney M. Thomson (eds), Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, vol. II: 1100-1400 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008): Chapters 3, 4 & 5.  

Michelle P. Brown’s online glossary is useful for understanding certain technical terms, and is illustrated with examples from British Library manuscripts:



Student Comments

Excellent. It was a real treat to examine so many rare manuscripts first-hand, and I enjoyed working on tasks in pairs and presenting, as it reinforced the material. The instructor was so so so good! Very clear, moved at a good pace, and very attentive.

Good, detailed and practical. I really appreciated the demonstrations immediately after the theoretical explanations.