Celtic 222. Early Irish Manuscript Tradition
Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures
This course explores the medieval Irish manuscript codices, situating
them against their monastic background and investigating their form
and content. It provides an introduction to Irish paleography and
editorial method, giving students hands-on practical experience in
manuscript transcription as well as familiarizing them with research
tools (facsimiles, catalogues of manuscripts, electronic and microfilm
resources). Seminar participants are expected to take an active role
in shaping the course; students will make a number of presentations,
as well as choose and present a final term project. Requirements: some
knowledge of either Latin or Irish.
Attendance and participation: 10%
Exercises and quizes: 30%
In-class presentations: 30%
Final project and paper: 30%
Discrete readings will be assigned for each week. The following works
serve as points of departure or of reference throughout the course and
may be considered required reading (though not necessarily required
Ludwig Bieler. Ireland: Harbinger of the Middle Ages. 1963. London,
L D Reynolds and N G Wilson. Scribes and Scholars: A Guide to the
Transmission of Greek and Latin Literature. Oxford 1968, esp. Ch 3:
The Latin West, and Ch. 6: Textual Criticism and Chapter 5: Some
Aspects of Scholarship, esp. v The Origins of Palaeography.
Timothy O'Neill. The Irish Hand. Portlaoise, 1984.
Great Books of Ireland. Dublin, 1967.
Marc Drogin, Medieval Calligraphy: Its History and Technique. Dover:
New York, 1980.
David Dumville, Abbreviations Used in Insular Script, Anglo-Saxon,
Norse & Celtic Manuscript Studies Pamphlet #2, ASNC, University of
Bischoff, Bernhard. Latin Palaeography, Cambridge, 1990.
Christopher de Hamel, Scribes & Illuminators. Toronto, 1992.
Michelle P Brown, The British Library Guide to Writing and
Scripts. Toronto, 1998, esp. Chap 3 `Writing in the West'.
Adamnán's Vita Columbae
Introduction of literacy to Ireland. Monasteries and scriptoria. The familia of St Columba.
Medieval Manuscript Production
Hands-on introduction to the physical world of writing in medieval Ireland: media and techniques.
Books for Missionaries - The Earliest Manuscripts
Psalters, missals and portable gospels. From Roman Rustic to Irish Majuscule: the development of Irish script.
The Book of Armagh and the familia of St Patrick
The Patrick Dossier in the Book of Armagh. Latin palaeography: compendia and conventions. Irish Minuscule. Calligraphy practicum.
Tools and Resources: Library Practicum
Library Resources: Manuscript collections, facsimiles, microfilms, electronic resources. Manuscript catalogues, diplomatic editions. Introduction to the Robinson Room collections.
Illuminated Manuscripts I: Function, Artistry and Meaning
Models and development. Irish vs Anglo-Saxon or Insular? Function and meaning.
Illuminated Manuscripts II: Durrow, Kells and Lindisfarne
Visit to Houghton Library. Student presentations, introducing the Durrow, Kells and Lindisfarne facsimiles. Exploration of a single Manuscript page.
In the Footsteps of Columbanus: Irish Manuscripts on the Continent
From the trivial to the complex: monastic education. The St Paul Codex. Irish manuscripts in Continental libraries; the glossed Milan, St Gall, Würzburg and Turin manuscripts.
Text and Context: Early Irish Hermit Poetry?
Interpreting marginal poetry within its proper context - its immediate manuscript context and its intellectual and religious context.
The Twelfth-Century Vernacular Manuscripts
The three vernacular manuscripts - The book of the Dun Cow (LU), The
Book of Leinster (LL) and Rawlinson B502.
Student presentations and practicum on the scripts.
The taxonomy of the tradition.
From Manuscript to Printed Text: The Theory & Practice of Text Editing
Introduction to the history of textual criticsm. Manuscript collation and the stemma. The joys and perils of emendation.
Welsh Vernacular Manuscripts
Introduction to Welsh Manuscript tradition. Welsh script and scriptoria. The vernacular compilations: The White Book, the Red Book, and the Hendregadredd Manuscript.
The Late-Medieval Vernacular Manuscripts
Later medieval manuscript production: significance. The learned families and their patrons; scholars' books and patrons' books. The Book of Ballymote. Student presentations on late vernacular compilations.