Introduction

As books “go digital,” we can appreciate what is gained in terms of convenience, accessibility and interconnectedness. However, we should also consider what is lost as texts transition to a digital sphere.

This first module in the multi-part course The Book: Histories Across Time and Space seeks to re-introduce learners to the codex – a handwritten and hand-constructed book - as a three-dimensional object whose characteristics produce meaning in the experience of the reader.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwHbfJAYqJw" rel="nofollow" target="_blank"><img src="http://img.youtube.com/vi/LwHbfJAYqJw/0.jpg" alt="0" title="How To Choose The Correct Channel Type For Your Video Content " /></a>

This module is designed to walk you through the process of making a medieval manuscript. Using a wide variety of examples from the collections of Harvard’s Houghton Library, it will familiarize you with basic terms and concepts and give you a “feel” for the shapes, sizes, formats, materials and considerations of craft that went into the making of the book as we know it.

Throughout the Middle Ages there existed an intimate relationship between making and meaning. Codices were tactile as well as visual objects designed to engage multiple senses. In the illuminated manuscript, it is often impossible to distinguish neatly between text and image; rather, letters assume imagistic forms and images take the form of letters.

Bookmakers were sensitive to the interplay of materials, from the parchment of the pages to the wooden boards, designed to protect the contents. Each of these elements conditioned a reader’s interaction with the book. Bookmaking required a significant material investment. The production process was laborious and lengthy, involving many separate stages and craftsmen.

Books participated in a wide range of ritual, liturgical, devotional, educational and practical contexts, each of which in turn conditioned the presentation and reception of both their form and content.

HarvardX pursues the science of learning. By registering as an online learner in an HX course, you will also participate in research about learning. Read our research statement to learn more.

Meet The Author

Jeffrey F. Hamburger

Jeffrey F. Hamburger

Kuno Francke Professor of German Art and Culture Harvard University

Jeffrey F. Hamburger, Kuno Francke Professor of German Art & Culture in the Department of the History of Art & Architecture at Harvard University, is a specialist in the history of the book in the European Middle Ages. Having received his B.A. and Ph.D. at Yale University, he taught at Oberlin College and the University of Toronto before coming to Harvard University in 2000. Prof. Hamburger is a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences as well as the American Philosophical Society.

Course Provided By

Back To Top