Dec 22, 2021

Merry Christmas 2021

 Yin Liu

London, British Library MS Harley 2332, fol. 20v.

It's time to restart what used to be an annual tradition on this blog: the Christmas post. This year, let's look at a page from an illustrated almanac. This was a small book -- I haven't included the ruler in the cropped image, but the book would easily fit in one hand -- that included a detailed calendar, showing feast days of the Church, the Zodiac months, etc. The purpose was timekeeping (computus) and prognostication: the calendar would help you not only to figure out what day it was, but also what agricultural activities you should be engaged in, and possibly when it would be best to undergo medical procedures like bleeding. 

Sep 17, 2021

Remote Reading

Yin Liu

A student examines the 15th-century Brendan Missal, University of Saskatchewan Special Collections, 2017.

The University of Saskatchewan dairy herd. Lots of cows, not much parchment. 
When COVID-19 restrictions made most of us in Canada stay at least 2 m away from each other, shut down international travel, and compelled many academics to work from domestic spaces frequently traversed by cats and children, manuscript scholars faced, in a heightened form, a paradox that we have been grappling with ever since digital technologies gave us access to manuscript images online. On the one hand, someone like me, who lives in the middle of Canada surrounded by a vast expanse of farmland and a vast absence of medieval manuscripts, has had my teaching and research practice revolutionised by the wonderful array of manuscript images freely available on the Web, thanks to the generosity of many holding institutions and their funding sources. On the other hand, any manuscript scholar knows that staring at an image on a screen is not the same as holding a manuscript in one’s hands. Digital technology opens up some ways of approaching medieval documents, at the cost of shutting down others.