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From disorders to doodles

Posted on 13 July 2016

C2D2 Research Fellow Dr Deborah Thorpe steers a revelatory interdisciplinary course

Dr Thorpe's C2D2-funded research project involves looking through many beautiful and intricate Medieval books and manuscripts. Mainly her focus is on examining the handwriting since the ambition of her fellowship is to gain insight into the impact of the movement disorders caused by neurological conditions on the working lives of medieval scribes.

While looking through the pages of a 14th Century book, originally from a Franciscan convent in Naples, Dr Thorpe unexpectedly came across a number of doodle-like drawings in the margins of what appeared to be horses, cows, human figures and even possibly the devil: “I was looking through a database of medieval manuscripts online and I found images of these beautiful doodles in the margins and to me they looked like they were done by children. I thought ‘this is really interesting, has anyone written anything about this?’”. She was so intrigued by these that she enlisted the help of child psychologists to identify the drawings.

She relates that the child psychologists confirmed they were probably drawn by children aged four to six years old: “They came up with a set of criteria for why we could say they were the work of children, for example the elongated shapes, the really long legs and the lack of a torso, the focus on the head. These are the things that are most important to children. If you compare them with the doodles that children make today they are really similar.”

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