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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Event Archive

History of the Book Lecture 2015: Medieval Manuscripts from Germany in the Bodleian Library, Oxford

21st October 2015, 17:30, Palace Green Library Learning Centre, Dr Daniela Mairhofer, University of Vienna

9th Annual History of the Book Lecture, jointly hosted by the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies and the Department of History, Durham University, to be followed by a drinks reception in the Palace Green Library Cafe.

This event is free to attend and open to all - booking is highly recommended.

To book please click here.

Dr Daniela Mairhofer is a classical philologist based at the University of Vienna, Department of Classical Philology, Medieval and Neo-Latin Studies. She previously worked in Oxford, on three manuscript projects as well as for 'Medieval Libraries of Great Britain' ('MLGB3').

Abstract: The Bodleian is one of the few libraries outside Germany itself to contain really substantial numbers of medieval manuscripts from the German-speaking lands. These manuscripts, dating from the end of the 6th to the 17th century, would be important and interesting enough if they had entered the Library individually; but the fact that they mostly consist of major groups of codices from particular ecclesiastical centres immeasurably enhances the contribution they can make to the religious and intellectual history of these foundations and to the study of German medieval culture as a whole. The manuscripts given by William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor of Oxford University, in his four great donations of 1635–40, derived from a small group of religious houses which had suffered severe depredations during the disturbances of the Thirty Years’ War, that is Würzburg (cathedral chapter St Kilian), Mainz (Charterhouse), and Eberbach (Cistercian abbey).

A detailed analysis of these books, which serves as a basis for this paper, shows that the codices were not assembled indiscriminately, but were chosen with consideration and care by a collector with historical and religious interests. Furthermore, it brings to light the great cultural and literary-historical significance of each of the three groups: the majority of books from Würzburg, for example, was written in the scriptorium of the chapter cathedral, dating from the first and second third of the ninth century. Apart from their great paleographical value, the exceptional significance of this group of manuscripts lies in the fact that they represent a large body of Caroline manuscripts preserved en bloc outside a Caroline centre. The books from Mainz, on the other hand, mostly bulky, small-format composite manuscripts consisting of several different fascicles, are not only interesting in terms of their contents, as we shall see. Their parts usually tell the story of a very long journey: from the time before the foundation of the Charterhouse, their stay in the Charterhouse, up to their journey to England. Last but not least, the largest group, the books from Eberbach, constitutes important testimonials to Cistercian book culture.

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