Prof Michelle P. Brown
Maximum: 15 Students
Venue: Senate House

Medieval manuscripts offer us an invaluable window into understanding the creation of the distinctive cultural identities of the Celtic areas of these islands: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Man and their neighbour Brittany. Sophisticated oral societies responded to the challenges of written literacy and learning Latin as a foreign language by also deploying their own tongues, scripts and artwork in the new medium of the book. This course will chart their contribution to pre-print book history, from the Táin Bó Cúailnge ('Cattle Raid of Cooley'), Gildas and Taliesin to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Gerald of Wales, the Mabinogion and the Annals of the Four Masters. We shall study the great Insular illuminated manuscripts (such as the Book of Durrow, the Book of Kells, the Book of Armagh, the Chad Gospels, the Hereford Gospels, the Bodmin Gospels and the Book of Deer), educational texts, law-codes, mythology, epic poetry and romance, saints’ lives, drama, histories and travel writing. Field trips will enable face to face encounters with some of these fascinating artefacts.


Introductory Reading List:

M. P. Brown, The Book and the Transformation of Britain, c.550-1050: a Study in Written and Visual Literacy and Orality (BL &Chicago University Press, 2011)

M. P. Brown, Art of the Islands: Celtic, Pictish, Anglo-Saxon and Viking Visual Culture c.450-1050 (Bodleian, 2017)

D. Huws, Medieval Welsh Manuscripts (University of Wales, 2002)

L. Laing, Celtic Britain (Paladin, 1986)

T. O'Neill, The Irish hand: scribes and their manuscripts from the earliest times (Cork University Press, 2014)

A. & B. Rees, Celtic Heritage (Thames & Hudson 1978)

For some useful free online resources, see:

h (although amateur, this site gives a useful list of key manuscripts and links to online facsimiles etc)