Lost Manuscripts? Or Fragments Reunited?

We need your advice. Can you help?

This is an exciting day for the Centre as one of its projects starts in earnest. Generously supported by funds from the University of Essex, we are beginning to catalogue and to digitize the fragments – pastedowns, tabs and strips – that survive in the early bindings of the books once owned by Samuel Harsnett and now held in the University’s Special Collections. Today saw the first meeting with our web developer and in the midst of the discussion, a good question was asked: what’s the name of the project?

Truth be told, there has been some umming and more arghing over this. The one title which seems most obvious and descriptive is ‘Lost Manuscripts’ but there is a worry: is that too pessimistic? The fragments we are studying are witnesses to once-whole manuscripts but a key conceptual purpose of the project is to think how far we can extrapolate from the microcosmic element which is the fragment and reconstruct the macrocosm that once was the whole book. So, is what we are doing an attempt at creating ‘Books Reborn’? Or, as the intention is that this is a pilot for further cataloguing with the hope that disparate elements of one codex can be brought together, should we call this ‘Fragments Reunited’? This is your opportunity to help shape this project by telling us what you think.

That is not the only way you can help. We would also like to know what you would hope to see in a database like this. Why would you use it and what would help you find what you want from it? So, do send us comments, telling us these three things:

  • as [what type of user you would consider yourself to be]
  • I want [how you would use the site]
  • so that [what the purpose of this would be]

Your answers will really help us as we shape the architecture of the site – so thank you for your engagement.


The Centre and the Thrill of CHASE

Last week, the CHASE consortium of universities ran another of its successful workshops for doctoral students on Material Witness. This session took place at Lambeth Palace Library and, alongside its Librarian, Giles Mandelbrote, the Centre’s Co-Director, David Rundle, was one of the presenters. His theme was the material evidence books can provide for the journeys they have taken and consideration of what medieval and early modern catalogues can tell us about how the books were seen.

One of the students attending the session was our own Helen Kemp and she has provided a blog-post describing her experiences of the day.

https://materialwitnessdotme.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/giles-and-david-1.png?w=377&h=535Photo: David and Giles engaging in a spot of biblio-archaeology (with thanks to @MatWitness)