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In this period most books were legibly, even beautifully, written. Monastic scribes were highly trained; in larger houses there was often a master-scribe who trained younger monks. In such cases there could emerge a 'house style' which can be diagnostic in assigning surviving books a place of origin. Scribes were usually anonymous but nevertheless their work was valued and they enjoyed high social status. Later in the century we see the emergence of a commercial book-trade in major towns such as Paris. With the emergence of the universities, books had to be made more quickly and cheaply. Nonetheless, luxury books could be, and were, made to order, for wealthy individuals and institutions.
The twelfth century was an important period for the manufacture of the hand-made book. For most of the century, most books were made at and for monastic communities. This meant that, on the one hand, the numbers of books expanded as monasticism grew in popularity, and on the other, that books were made with great care, and an eye on their durability: monastic books were expected to last as long as their contents were relevant, that is potentially for ever. The average twelfth-century book is made of well-prepared parchment, strongly bound in wooden boards covered with skin, and written and decorated using material and techniques that resisted dislocation or fading.
The Introduction outlines the subject matter and rationale of the book, as well as its temporal and geographical scope. Divided over three sections – Book Production, Readers and Their Books, and Types of Books – the collection focuses on the production and use of manuscripts in the ‘long’ twelfth century – that is, the period stretching from the late eleventh through the early thirteenth century – taking the cultural changes that occurred during the so-called ‘Twelfth-Century Renaissance’ as its point of departure. It provides a ‘big-picture’ overview of manuscript culture encompassing the whole of Western Europe and based upon expert analysis of each subject area. While certain elements of book culture already received scholarly attention, the manuscript as a whole and as a developing European book format has not yet received significant attention, nor has the historical backdrop of its creation as a pan-European intellectual movement. Furthermore, the volume also broadly investigates how readers in the twelfth century interacted with books and texts. It aims to show how a changing literary taste, a shift in the use of texts and a new outlook on the world among intellectuals affected the practices of book production and reading in varying degrees.
The 'long twelfth century' (1075–1225) was an era of seminal importance in the development of the book in medieval Europe and marked a high point in its construction and decoration. This comprehensive study takes the cultural changes that occurred during the 'twelfth-century Renaissance' as its point of departure to provide an overview of manuscript culture encompassing the whole of Western Europe. Written by senior scholars, chapters are divided into three sections: the technical aspects of making books; the processes and practices of reading and keeping books; and the transmission of texts in the disciplines that saw significant change in the period, including medicine, law, philosophy, liturgy, and theology. Richly illustrated, the volume provides the first in-depth account of book production as a European phenomenon.