This module investigates the complex roles that images and other visual devices have in the history of the book. The focus will be on some of the most lavish books ever produced: illuminated Bible manuscripts. These manuscripts are diverse in their size, scope, audiences, and functions. They range in scale from giant volumes to pocket-size and rarely comprise only the text of the Bible (be it the whole Old and New Testaments or just one individual book, such as the Apocalypse): the biblical text is often complemented by further material such as prologues, calendars, diagrams, glosses and tables. Images can feature in these manuscripts in numerous ways: in some cases they come to replace the text as the core component of the manuscripts; in others they appear as prefatory miniature cycles, between texts, within individual letters or in the margins. Additionally, the text itself is configured visually through the way in which the letters are shaped and laid out on the pages.
In this module we will investigate these visual dimensions of the manuscripts, drawing on prominent biblical manuscripts made between c. 1100 and 1500 as case-studies. They will include, among others, a giant Bible of Bury St Edmunds Abbey, diagrammatical chronicles developed for students of theology in the University of Paris, and the moralized Bibles made for the kings and queens of France. Through the lens of such case-studies and by using a range of theoretical approaches, we will address broader issues of manuscript production, patronage and use, and investigate concepts of time and visual argumentation. In this way, the module aims to provide tools for a critical and nuanced assessment of visual phenomena which in many ways still define the books and media we are using today.
Module learning outcomes
By the end of the module, students should have acquired:
A good knowledge of key examples of illuminated manuscripts of the period.
A nuanced approach to the relationship between image, text, and layout in medieval manuscripts.
Acquaintance with a range of different approaches to the study of illuminated manuscripts and with the terminology that is used for their analysis.
Special assessment rules
Students will receive Feedback on their formative assessment within one week.
Students will receive feedback on their summative assessment within 20 working days.
Jeffrey F. Hamburger, Script as Image (Leuven, 2014)
Paul Binski and Stella Panyotova (eds), The Cambridge Illuminations. Ten Centuries of Book Production in the Medieval West (London and Turnhout: Harvey Miller Publishers, 2005), esp. pp. 74-117
C. M. Kauffmann, Biblical Imagery in Medieval England 700-1550 (London: Harvey Miller, 2003)
Scot McKendrick and Kathleen Doyle, Bible Manuscripts: 1400 years of scribes and scripture (London: The British Library, 2007)
Susan Boynton and Diane J. Reilly (eds), The Practice of the Bible in the Middle Ages: Production, Reception, and Performance in Western Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011)
John Lowden, 'Illustration in biblical manuscripts', in: The New Cambridge History of the Bible, ed. E Ann Matter and Richard Marsden (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 446-82
Lucy Freeman Sandler, 'The word in the text and the image in the margin', in: Studies in Manuscript Illumination, 1200-1400 (London, 2008), pp. 45-75
Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham, Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Ithaca and London, 2007)
Christopher de Hamel, The Book. A History of the Bible (New York: Phaidon, 2001)
Frans van Liere, An Introduction to the Medieval Bible (Cambridge, 2014)