I seek to bring focus to an often-overlooked area of manuscript studies, which is the layout of manuscripts. By presenting results from my Masters thesis, ‘The Layout of Danish Medieval Law Manuscripts from 1250-1500’, I demonstrate what knowledge can be derived by including this aspect in manuscript studies. Attention is otherwise mostly on content or the physical material; however, layout is likewise an expression of intention, and thereby equally a source of information regarding the manuscript itself, its origin, context, and function. It is therefore relevant to be aware of this interplay between content and materiality, when interpreting medieval texts.
This paper seeks to explore evidence of reading practices in a selection of 15th-century English household miscellanies, investigating how the presentation of texts – their layout, paratextual features and structure – support the medieval experience of reading. Household manuscripts have varied contents and were created to support the multiple reading needs of a household. I will examine two key texts that each fulfil a different purpose – one for entertainment, and one for devotional reading. In each, the gaze of the reader is carefully guided across the page and through the text by a scheme of paratextual markings such as litterae notabiliores, headings, paraphs, brackets and marginal additions. The construction of household manuscripts, both amateur and professional productions, reveals how medieval scribes and bookmakers anticipated future reading contexts and receptions, allowing for multi-modal uses of the book.
This paper proposes that the narration of the Middle English dream poem Pearl is structured upon the T-O type mappaemundi of the High Middle Ages. Referring to Hugh of St Victor’s Descriptio mappe mundi and De arca Noe mystica, and understanding medieval mappae as geography and history simultaneously, I read the itinerary of the Pearl narrator’s soul as a spatial and temporal pilgrimage down, across, and up towards Jerusalem on a typical mappa, exemplified by the Hereford Mappamundi produced in the same century and possibly viewed by the poet. With Britannia, the terrestrial paradise and the New Jerusalem (among others) corresponding to various ‘points of epiphany’ on the mappa, I argue that Pearl and the Hereford mappa are verbal and pictorial illustrations of the same ‘otherness’ of 14th-century English pilgrimage narratives.