How can marginalia be used to understand medieval interpretation and the social history of reading? This paper explores the material evidence of reception left in manuscripts by readers. I contend that the manuscript is a locus of participatory interpretation and intellectual engagement. Marginalia and physical alteration of a manuscript suggests an audience acting upon and engaging with the materiality during the process of reading. Using the manuscripts of the South English Legendary, I examine how material traces of active and intimate reading engagement can be used to better understand the medieval and early modern reader and their perceptions of literature.
The Portuguese court was one of the first to translate the work of Christine de Pizan, Livre des Trois Vertus or Trésor de la Cité des Dames. The translation to Portuguese was ordered by Queen Isabel of Coimbra, c. 1447-1455, but the book had probably arrived at court much earlier, sent by Isabel, Duchess of Bourgogne. The same book would be printed in beginning of the 16th century, under Queen Leonor’s patronage. This paper will analyse how Portuguese aristocratic women were involved in reading, writing, owning, and commissioning books, and how they acted as agents of cultural change at court.
How did the exchange of books among male readers in15th-century England function as a socio-cultural phenomenon? Many surviving manuscripts with texts relating to good governance and warfare contain inscriptions that not only attest to their ownership but also cement homosocial bonds between male readers; these notes stress friendship, kinship, and social rank. Taking the books of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and his associates as a case study, I argue that campaigns on the continent during the Hundred Years War forged connections among soldiers and enabled them to access continental books. Once in England, these manuscripts, and their exchange among former military men, publicized and reinforced the personal bonds formed abroad.