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Preface

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2021

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Summary

As a scholar of medieval book culture I handle manuscripts (handwritten books made before the invention of print) several times per week. I cannot help but speed up as I make my way to the Special Collections Library. What will the object I called up from the vault look like? What might it let me discover about its past? As soon as I touch the manuscript it attacks the senses: its pages are “velvety” to the touch, they sound crackly and tired when I turn them, and they present a musky scent that is unbeatable if you like old books. As the manuscript starts acclimatizing to the warmer and moister air outside the vault, the tips of the pages begin to curl—although not usually as much as the ninth-century manuscript on the cover of this book—as if to encourage me to keep going. I find the whole experience simply magical, each and every time.

It is this feeling of magic and excitement that I am trying to convey in the book you are holding. This volume is intended for those who want to learn about medieval manuscripts and are new to the topic, or perhaps have some prior knowledge. In fact, I designed it to serve three different audiences. First and foremost, it is intended as an introductory tool for undergraduate courses in such disciplines as History, English, Medieval Studies, and, of course, Book History. I taught many such courses during my five-year tenure at the University of Victoria, Canada (2005– 2010), and I wished a general introduction like this had been around to accompany the more specialized books I generally used. Graduate students, too, can benefit from this book, even if they already know the feel and scent of a manuscript. It introduces them to a wide array of real-world case studies, which adds depth to existing knowledge and expands it further. Finally, the book also reaches out to non-experts outside academia, a growing—and most rewarding—audience for research undertaken by academics.

Because these primary audiences are non-specialists, I have opted for a casual narrative, avoided jargon where possible (beyond the essential terms introduced in the Introduction), and refrained from using footnotes unless truly necessary: they are added only to reference quotations, online resources (usually image databases), and scholarly studies if the text borrows directly from them.

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Books Before Print , pp. xix - xx
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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  • Preface
  • Erik Kwakkel
  • Book: Books Before Print
  • Online publication: 05 February 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781942401636.001
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  • Preface
  • Erik Kwakkel
  • Book: Books Before Print
  • Online publication: 05 February 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781942401636.001
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Preface
  • Erik Kwakkel
  • Book: Books Before Print
  • Online publication: 05 February 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781942401636.001
Available formats
×