English 241 Third Writing Assignment: Manuscript Texts and Archives

        There is no minimum page length.  I would prefer that your writing would take up no more than five pages when printed, though you may include features that would make it more sensible to read it as a digital text.  I want to emphasize concentrated, sophisticated thinking in your writing, rather than length or sheer accumulation of ideas.  The topics below are intended to simulate, not limit, your creative engagement with the issues we have been discussing.  You may well find that you have more to say than you can fit into five (virtual) pages.  Remember that you can return to these topics in the final research projects, though I hope most of you will want to work with books from Goucher's Special Collections.

1)  Discuss either the nineteenth-century (Lang) or the C16 or C17 manuscripts in terms of the challenges it presented to you as a reader and bibliographic analyst.  Especially consider how knowledge (or lack thereof!) of the author's identity, purposes, hand, and (in the case of the C16/C17 MS) language affected your ability to know and describe what you saw.  Be specific about how you were able to identify persons or places or things mentioned in the MS (Google?  surely not Wikipedia!) and any uncertainty you were left with after you made these identifications.  Remember that unless you are working with an iron-clad scholarly source, you had better be using an extremely persuasive single source, or bringing more than one source of evidence to cross check what you found in the first one.  Discussion of source quality is essential to such an assignment, so remember how to determine Web page sources and quality.  Comparisons between your experiences of both manuscripts might be helpful, but I urge you to concentrate on one.  Reference to readings in the syllabus and elsewhere should help to support your discussion.  Remember to document your use of both primary and secondary sources using MLA in-text citations and a properly formatted Works Cited section.

2)  What was your manuscript leaf "about"?  How did reading that text in that manuscript leaf differ from your experience reading the same text, or related texts, in modern print or online editions?  Think about the physical (tactile, visual, etc.) and emotional experience of reading manuscript text.  What trade-offs do you perceive when the manuscript version is compared with a modern print or online edition of the same text?  What are the unique properties of manuscript texts and how does that affect your encounter with them, including your attempts to categorize them in an archive so that others might retrieve them?  Reference to readings in the syllabus and elsewhere should help to support your discussion.  Remember to document your use of both primary and secondary sources using MLA in-text citations and a properly formatted Works Cited section.

3)  What is are the C17 and C18 indenture leaves made of, and what does their current physical structure reveal about their construction and history?  This requires some experience with scientific equipment, including magnifying glasses or digital magnifying apps, and techniques for physical analysis of parchment, ink, and other materials.  Look at your indenture under the highest magnification you can arrange.   What does this reveal about the material the document is manufactured?  Can you see hair follicles on the "hair" side, or traces of veins on the "flesh" side?  Can you determine what kind of parchment it is (i.e., from what kind of animal)?  Can you see folds, tears, "blind" (no pigment" lines or holes that can tell us something about what has happened to the document since it was a supply, new. flat indenture with its ink gleaming freshly upon it.  Look closely at the individual characters of text.  Do they stand up on the parchment or are they impressed into the parchment?  Do they have distinctly demarcated edges, or are the edges rough, etc.?  Does it bear marks of water, mold, insect, or other damage, and what does close inspection tell you about the process by which the damage occurred?  Write up your results in "report" form as if you were giving a conservation librarian the results of your inspection to prepare her to work on the document.  See me for introductory materials on forensic parchment and ink analysis to get you started if you adopt this project.  Three basic resources are: Arnie Sanders, "Oak Gall Ink," English 240.  Available online at: http://faculty.goucher.edu/eng240/oak_gall_ink.htm; Amy Baker, "Common Medieval Pigments," Cochineal: A Forum for Student Work at the Kilgarlin Center for Preservation of the Cultural Record (U.Texas, Austin), Available online at: http://www.ischool.utexas.edu/~cochinea/pdfs/a-baker-04-pigments.pdf ; and "Guidelines for the Conservation of Leather and Parchment Bookbindings," Koninklijke Bibliothek [National Library of the Netherlands].  Available online at: http://www.kb.nl/cons/leather/index-en.html. Remember to document your use of both primary and secondary sources using MLA in-text citations and a properly formatted Works Cited section.

4)  Let us assume, for the moment, that the nineteenth-century "Lang" manuscript was the pre-publication autograph draft of the magazine article and book chapter published by the man whose name appears on the last folio.  Where does that manuscript "belong"?  Where are the author's papers stored?  Some online research will help you locate him in collections.  Remember WorldCat for library collections.  Think about collections and collectors as the amateur librarians of all early MSS that are not already in permanent institutional collections and open to the investigations of scholars. What advantages are there if the MSS of an author are all brought together as they once were in her/his study when she/he first composed them?  What difficulties are presented by the scattering of an author's MSS, and of her/his library, when authors' private effects are sold after their deaths?  Reference to readings in the syllabus and elsewhere should help to support your discussion.  Remember to document your use of both primary and secondary sources using MLA in-text citations and a properly formatted Works Cited section.

5)  In an essay, discuss the indenture you worked with, or the binding fragment in Lab 3, in the light of Christopher de Hamel's discussion of manuscript "breaking" and the market in separated manuscript leaves.  You can see the fragments by clicking on "Side 1" and "Side 2" on the Lab page.  Unlike the binding fragments, the indenture is not part of a book, but rather it is part of a culture that produced it.  Who is named in it, and what places does it concern?  What do the signers of the indenture intend the document to do?  What can your research into the people and place tell us about that action?  From your perspective, what should happen to the fragments or the indenture?  Think about them as cultural documents.  The binding fragment was once part of a book valued by its creator and users, and it may have "kin" fragments elsewhere in the world, or even within that same collection of fragments.  What might we do with those related fragments and how best should that be accomplished?  The indenture was (mostly) intact and arguably relevant to any living people descended from its signers, and relevant to the places named in it.  Institutions which can afford to do it tend to jealously guard the artifacts of their own existence.  Goucher has a large archive of materials related to the history of the college.  What does "alienating" (selling or giving or throwing away) such materials do to the institution's sense of its own history?  Reference to readings in the syllabus and elsewhere would help to support your discussion.  In addition to de Hamel, reference to readings in the syllabus and elsewhere should help to support your discussion.  Remember to document your use of both primary and secondary sources using MLA in-text citations and a properly formatted Works Cited section.

6)  In an essay, propose the creation of a manuscript you might make.  Use the readings on manuscript construction and the online or print images available to us to support your case for the decisions such a manuscript would require.  First, explain what text you have chosen to transcribe.  Why that one?  If it's not an original manuscript work, but some edition or manuscript copy of a pre-existing work, how do you choose which edition to transcribe?  Then the overall materials and construction of the manuscript should be explained.  Are you going to try to use real parchment or some variety of paper?  (There are lots of nice paper manuscripts from the later Middle Ages and early Renaissance, and I have some examples I can show you.)  How will you bind it?  Before you sew it, I can give you a good source on binding patterns.  Then there is the manuscript hand—which era’s hand will you choose?  And finally, will you include any rubrication (red or blue capitals, whole words, or whole sentences for emphasis), historiation (pictures within capitals), illumination (painted pictures), or marginal decoration?  Such proposals for manuscript construction played an important part in negotiations between patrons who paid scribes to create the manuscripts and the scribes who produced them.  If you intend to actually make the manuscript, consider carefully your estimate of how many hours' work each stage will require from you.  Unless you are working "for the greater glory of God" and the good of your own soul, please do not let the project run away with you.