Manuscripts, and ὄστρακα, and Dissertations, oh my!

My trip to the UK was marvelous and encompassed several of the things I like best in life: fantastic food and drink, wonderful friends, and working with manuscripts. It was a flying visit, sadly, which meant that I did not have the chance to do as much (or, for that matter, see as many friends) as I would have liked, but it was both rejuvenating and productive. 

For one, I procured my reader's pass for the British Library and reveled in some Anglo-Saxon manuscripts with a friend who was up from Oxford to do some work, and took photos of a sixteenth-century transcription of (the now lost) Cotton Otho A.xii for a friend who needed them in relation to his research on the Vita Alfredi.

After a few days in London, I was down to Cambridge to see friends AND spend time with the manuscript that is central to my doctoral dissertation: Cambridge, University Library FF.I.27. I've handled manuscripts before, but I felt a certain sense of reverence sitting down with this one for the first time. I had never seen any facsimiles of this manuscript before, so it was a voyage of discovery. 

Incipit, praefatio, and capitula of Gildas' De excidio Britanniae in Cambridge, UL FF.I.27

For some reason, I wasn't really expecting to see Matthew Parker's signature at the top of the page. Neither, for that matter, was I expecting to see such a great littera notabilior. Despite knowing that it had been part of a book given as a gift to the bishop of Durham, I somehow expected it would be workmanlike, yet spartan. I was really unprepared for what I would find on the next leaf.

I'm not entirely sure why, but I was completely taken aback by an illuminated littera notabilior at the beginning of Gildas. I expect that I'd been projecting the severity of Gildas' text onto the manuscript in some sort of fashion. What would Gildas have said about such things? I like to imagine that he would have thought it a lot of frippery and groused about it!

While I was in the UK, I was also trying to coordinate the UW Medieval Studies Graduate Interest Group's (MSGIG) inaugural Whan That Aprille Day event. Briefly, this public scholarship project was created by Dr Brantley Bryant (the person behind Chaucer Doth Tweet—@LeVostreGC) as a new holiday to "celebrate al the langages that have come bifor, and alle their joyes and sorrowes and richesse." This year, we decided to get in on the act. In consequence, we reached out to graduate students and faculty across campus working on pre-modern subjects and invited them to participate. Working with librarians from the Allen Research Commons, Special Collections, and Instructional Outreach at UW, we put together (to my mind!) a really great event.

Our event flyer!

We had a nice turn out of students considering the fact that the event took place on a gloriously sunny Friday in the first week of term. Naturally, I ran our little scriptorium. I had a great time talking about manuscript production with students. We pricked and ruled leaves (of heavy paper) and then took turns with a dip pen and mock writing desk. Next to my station was one of our classicists teaching students the Greek alphabet while giving instruction on that cornerstone of Athenian democracy—ostracism. Below are some photos from the event, including pictures of the display set up by Special Collections. Other photos may be found here.

Now that the term is in full swing, I am settling back into the routine of teaching (last term, I was just TAing) and working on my dissertation prospectus. I'm still waiting to hear whether I have been awarded a fellowship that will allow me to return to the UK this next year to do additional archival work related to FF.I.27. I hope to hear about this by the end of the month. While I was abroad, I was delighted to learn that I have been awarded a research grant from the Textual Studies program at UW. While I wait to hear about this fellowship, I am hard at work preparing the 2016–17 funding application for MSGIG or, as it will become next year, CMEMS (Classical, Medieval, and Early Modern Studies). We've made the decision to expand our scope from just the medieval in part as a response to the dwindling numbers of medievalists at the University of Washington (driven, in large part, by departmental and broader institutional neglect) and a desire to foster fruitful collaboration between the classicists, medievalists, and early modernists on campus. I hope that, owing to successful public events like Whan That Aprille Day, our strong series of guest speakers, and our popular annual public readings of medieval literature, our proposal will be met with approval. 

End of Term and Adventures in Archival Work

This is the last week of instruction for the winter term (technically next week is finals week, but who is counting?), so it is an extra busy time for me. In addition to marking papers and invigilating (as well as marking) the final exam for the course I'm TAing this term, I'm sitting my PhD oral exams on Tuesday. Needless to say, I'll be glad when this is all over—especially because I leave for the UK on the fourteenth. 

This will be my first trip back to the UK since I left in July 2013 after completing my MPhil. In part, this trip is a birthday gift to myself (I'll be 38!) and a treat for passing my exams, but it's also a working trip. During my stay in Cambridge, I'll be visiting the University Library (UL) to begin familiarizing myself with the manuscript known as Ff.I.27.

This manuscript, dated to the latter half of the twelfth century, likely had its origins at Durham Great Priory and appears to have been given as a gift to seventh Norman bishop of Durham, Hugh de Puiset, by the monks of the cathedral chapter. What makes it particularly interesting (to me, at least!) is the fact that the X text of Gildas' De excidio is preserved in this manuscript. This witness to the De excidio is unusual because it has been interpolated with extracts from Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum. I'm curious why this Bedan material has been introduced into this witness of the De excidio and this trip will mark the start of my research into this. Since it's impossible for me to do all the work that I need to do in a short, week-long trip, I've applied for an international research and study fellowship that will give me the chance to spend a term in Cambridge next year working with this manuscript and some closely related materials. 

If everything goes well, this trip to the archives next week will be beginning of my doctoral dissertation research!