Introduction

Medieval Europe has preserved enormous quantities of books and documentsmany millions of pages, in factwritten in Latin and other languages. However, only a tiny percentage of these texts have been edited and published. To gain access to the rest, you need to learn the art and science of reading medieval handwriting,

This sixth module of The Book: Histories Across Time and Space introduces students to the world of medieval paleography, the science of reading old handwriting. This particular module focuses on notarial handwriting from the city of Marseille in the 14th and 15th centuries. The module features household inventories, which identify some of the fascinating objects found in people’s houses. Assessments and quizzes will allow you to track your progress as you move from letter-group to letter-group. In addition to learning the handwriting, we will take special care to explore some of the many abbreviations and other elements of the secular registers of the later Middle Ages.

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Some knowledge of Latin or another Romance Language will be very helpful for understanding the texts you will read, but students without these language skills will still enjoy this chance to explore medieval handiwork.

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Meet The Faculty

Daniel Lord Smail

Daniel Lord Smail

Professor of History

Daniel Lord Smail is professor of History at Harvard University, where he works on the history and anthropology of Mediterranean societies between 1100 and 1600 and on deep human history. In medieval European history, his work has explored the social and cultural history of the cities of Mediterranean Europe, with a focus on Marseille in the later Middle Ages. He has covered subjects ranging from women and Jews to legal history and spatial imagination. His current research approaches transformations in the material culture of the later Middle Ages using household inventories and inventories of debt recovery from Lucca and Marseille. Smail's work in deep history and neurohistory has addressed some of the methodological and theoretical underpinnings of these approaches to the human past.

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