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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: History


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2021/22


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To achieve an understanding of the manuscript book as a physical artefact, and how its nature affected the transmission and reception of knowledge


  • The course will comprise five main units delivered in twelve sessions. The first four (based in a seminar room) are devoted to exploring in turn the nature and implications of the different aspects of the manuscript and early printed book
  • Unit 1: Support and fabric: parchment, paper and preparation
  • Unit 2: Content: scribes, texts and transmission
  • Unit 3: Articulation, presentation and communication: rubric and decoration
  • Unit 4: Preservation: binding, storage and the organisation of knowledge
  • Unit 5: Will be a 'practical' session, applying the training to the interpretation of real manuscripts (in the Cathedral Library or UL Special Collections)

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A broad knowledge of the evolving ways and contexts in which manuscripts were made, and of the modern scholarship thereon
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to describe a manuscript accurately and technically
  • An ability to understand the physical evidence of manuscripts and to deploy it as an integral part of historical, literary, art-historical or bibliographical enquiry
Key Skills:
  • A professional approach to handling, examining and interpreting manuscripts so as to investigate them thoroughly while respecting their integrity, fragility and value

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • A series of 12 seminar-lectures, eight given weekly in Michaelmas Term, four given fortnightly in Epiphany Term, with extensive use of slides and other reproductions showing the relevant features in particularly revealing manuscripts, will convey the basic elements of this unfamiliar field, while offering a flexible forum for question and answer, plus general debate
  • Guided reading will enable students to expand and consolidate their knowledge - thus supplying the 'subject knowledge' and 'skills'
  • One or more sessions in the Cathedral Library or UL Special Collections, examining actual manuscripts, will provide a structured and carefully supervised opportunity for putting into practice the skills learned in the seminar room - thus developing the 'key skills'
  • The function of the course is to provide skills and information that different students will deploy in different ways according to their particular research interests
  • Correspondingly, the assessment is designed to test the core content and its intelligent application, while allowing - indeed encouraging - flexibility of approach

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 12 Weekly in Michaelmas Term; fortnightly in Epiphany Term 1.5 hours 18
Preparation and Reading 282
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

An essay of 3,000 words. Either a description, analysis and cultural exploration of a particular manuscript or incunable; or a thematic study in which codicological methods and evidence form an integral part of the enquiry

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University