Case Studies

The Case Studies in the Medieval Codes project serve both to test and to inform the model we are developing. They are drawn from a wide range of possible topics related to medieval texts in English, c 500-1500. This approach is intended to ensure that a project with a wide temporal range remains historically sensitive. A lot can change in a thousand years. In the list below, we've included links to our blog posts that relate to each case study.

In Progress

Bede's Historia: G. Sinclair
Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum ('The Ecclesiastical History of the English People') was one of the most influential historical texts of early medieval England, and was translated into Old English in the late 800s. How were the Latin and Old English texts of Bede's Historia presented in the manuscripts?
An Encounter with Bede (an early post by Ben Neudorf)

British Library MS Harley 937 -- A Folding Almanac: Julie Maseka
London, British Library MS Harley 937, is catalogued as a 'physician's folding almanac'. What do features of this manuscript tell us about its purpose, its probable owner, and how it was actually used? What can this document teach us about the medieval practice of medicine and attitudes toward certain types of information?

Word separation in early English: Yin Liu and Madison Taylor
Word separation can be considered a form of tokenisation, a process fundamental to information retrieval but also language-dependent and often problematic. Saenger (1997) established that word separation began in Britain in the late 7th and early 8th centuries, among Irish and British monks for whom Latin was a foreign language, and who therefore used word separation to make Latin texts easier to read. How was word separation likely to affect the reading of early English? How did word separation in English writing compare to, and/or relate to, word separation of Latin? What factors (e.g. alphabet, physical support, genre of text) may have affected the incidence and process of word separation in early English writing? What does word separation in early English suggest about the ways in which Anglo-Saxon readers and writers processed their language?
Reading in two languages
Word by word
Spaces and silence 
Reading with spaces in Anglo-Saxon England 
Reading twitchily, then and now
Yin Liu, 'Reading with Spaces in Early Medieval England', presented to the CMRS Colloquium in Saskatoon in 2015, to the Ante Moderns in Edmonton, and (a very short flash presentation) at the 'Manuscript as Medium' conference, Fordham University, New York, in 2016.

Glossing Chaucer: Corie Wiebe
This case study hopes to articulate the difficulties surrounding the annotations referring to (or quoting from) Jerome’s Adversus Jovinianum, primarily in the Wife of Bath’s Prologue, in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In part, asking “who added these annotations?” implies “how important are they?” The importance of the glosses in the reception of the Canterbury Tales during the Middle Ages is undeniable, as they were copied into around thirty manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales in the fifteenth century (Caie 2004). The question “who added these annotations?” is worth asking because it has been argued that the annotations add a layer of meaning to the arguments made by the Wife of Bath, affecting the learned reader’s view of her character. Thus, the inclusion of these annotations has caused scholars to inquire whether this layer of meaning is authorial (Chaucerian), and purposefully added in order to present a new dimension to the Wife’s character -- or whether the annotations were made by later readers (or scribes) who were merely commenting on the Wife’s argument, making the annotations’ effect on the view of her character secondary to authorial intention. The inclusion of these annotations in the earliest copies of the work (Hg and El) gives another kind of legitimacy to their place alongside (or in) the Tales, especially in the highly polished Ellesmere manuscript, where spaces for the glosses were even ruled by the scribe.
Latin glosses to Chaucer's Tales
Who glossed the Canterbury Tales

Scrolls and rolls: Christina Fowlie-Neufeld
Many accounts of the history of the book suggest that the codex replaced the scroll in late antiquity. Yet scrolls or rolls continued to be used through the Middle Ages -- in England, for records and sometimes even for literature. Why, given all the apparent advantages of the codex, did rolls continue to be used, especially for English record-keeping? And why do digital user interfaces today so often require us not to flip pages to navigate, but to scroll up and down? 
Scrolling Through the Middle Ages 

The Chetham's Library Astrologia: Melissa Reid
Manchester, Chetham's Library MS A.4.99 is an illustrated 15th-century astronomical/astrological/medical manuscript including diagrams, tables, charts, and volvelles. What solutions did the maker(s) of this manuscript develop for presenting complex information and enabling the reader to process it?
Merry Christmas 2016

Hierarchies of Decoration in Manuscripts of Lydgate's Troy Book: Hailey Mullock
How did medieval scribes incorporate visual markers, such as decorated initials, to indicate textual structures, identities, and boundaries? The case study will compare the strategies used by scribes of three manuscripts that include the Troy Book of John Lydgate.
Hierarchy of Decoration
Following Lydgate: Troy Book to Siege of Thebes
Troy Book Comparisons
Hailey Mullock, poster submitted to the 2016 August 18 University of Saskatchewan Undergraduate Student Research Assistantship (USRA) Summer Social and Poster Competition.
Hailey Mullock, presentation at the University of Saskatchewan Student Union Student Research Symposium, 2017 January 26. 

Toward a Taxonomy of Glossing: Tristan Taylor and Yin Liu
The word gloss is used in medieval manuscript studies with a wide range of different, but related, meanings. The very flexibility of the term is problematic, obscuring the distinct functions, methods, and visual appearances of glosses, and obscuring their historical relations as well. In other words, gloss is a term that everyone in this field uses but is still not adequately defined. We wouldn't dare to presume that we can write the definitive history of medieval glossing, but we can at least start to map out the basic shape of this phenomenon.
What is a Gloss? Part 1
Latin Glosses and Commentaries: The Prick of Conscience


Saying the obvious in runes: Yin Liu and Brittany Pickering
This study investigates English-language runic inscriptions that state the obvious, with the idea that they might shed light on the following questions. How did early medieval English people make decisions about which script, runic or roman, to employ? To what extent were runic inscriptions public texts? How did users of the futhorc approach it as a code (whatever that means)? How might reading runic inscriptions involve both skills and expectations different not only from reading other kinds of texts but, also, different from the skills and expectations involved in acts of writing and inscription? What do these texts tell us about how Anglo-Saxons viewed relationships between writing and language, between writing and its material supports, between writing and knowledge?
Latin and lock-in
Things that talk
Yin Liu, 'Stating the Obvious in Runes,' in Verbal and Visual Communication in Early English Texts, ed. Matti Peikola et al., Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy 37 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2017) 125-139. This is a version of a paper presented at the Pragmatics on the Page symposium, Turku, Finland, 2015.

British Library MS Harley 4205: Danielle Grant
British Library MS Harley 4205 (c. 1445-1524) is a curious manuscript, one that sparks an inquisitive mind. It is a heraldic manuscript, opening with a series of remarkably similar kings holding poems. These are followed by pages containing four jousting knights, labeled and bearing their coats of arms, some of which display signs of having been altered. A series of single knights, again individually identified, fill the final leaves. It is clear that the maker of this manuscript utilized reproductive techniques to create these images. In spite of, and perhaps because of, the limited text in the work, this manuscript highlights the relationship of text and images, some pictures literally framing the written word. This work subtly hints at other intriguing features of manuscript creation: the steps of production, the influence of the intended user and the technology and methods available to the scribe. This manuscript is an excellent object on which to reflect and develop questions: How were these images reproduced? Why were the alterations made? What is the significance of this type of book?
Heraldry as Code
Danielle Grant, 'Conversations Between Medieval Texts and Digital Editions: The Remediation of Harley 4205,' MA thesis, University of Saskatchewan, 2017.

Signes-de-renvoi: Ben Neudorf and Yin Liu
A signe-de-renvoi is a visual mark that signifies a link between a location in a text and a corresponding correction, marginal annotation, or cross-reference. Its use stopped with the rise of print, where footnotes and endnotes became the norm. As an entirely visual linking system, involving no manipulation or computer mediation, it is a simple and effective technology.
An encounter with Bede
A note on religious engagement with texts
Medieval linking strategies
The 1560 Geneva Bible
Starting in the margins
Asterisks in the Middle Ages 
Yin Liu, 'Tracking the Signe-de-renvoi,' presented at Textual Trails, the annual conference of the European Society for Textual Scholarship, 2015.
Benjamin Neudorf and Yin Liu, 'Signes-de-Renvoi,' ArchBook, 2016.

Medieval Letters and Information Security: Megan Dase and Yin Liu
One area in which information security was an issue in the Middle Ages was in the delivery of written letters, diplomatic or personal. How was this issue handled, both in history and in medieval fiction?
Medieval Letters episode 1
Medieval Letters episode 2
Yin Liu, 'Information Insecurity in Some Middle English Romances,' presented at Romance in Medieval Britain, University of British Columbia, 2016.

Line fillers: Courtney Tuck
This case study will look at the different types and styles of line-fillers in medieval manuscripts and attempt to find patterns in their usage chronologically and geographically. The most intriguing of all the types of line-fillers utilized in the European manuscript tradition are zoomorphic and anthropomorphic line-fillers, which take the shape of animals, grotesques or people. By looking at instances of these line-fillers and seeking out patterns in usage, we hope to learn more about their function as well as the times and places in which they were popular. What purposes did the line-fillers have for both the reader and the manuscript creator? This case study utilizes both book history and art history to achieve greater insight into line-filler function within European manuscripts.

St Cuthbert's coffin: Yin Liu
In 687, Cuthbert, bishop of Lindisfarne, died and was buried. Over a decade later, his body was dug up and found to be undecayed, and was then placed in an oak coffin, which was inscribed with names of apostles and angels in runic and Roman lettering. A copy of the gospel of John was placed in the coffin with the body; it is now British Library MS Additional 89000, the St Cuthbert Gospel (formerly the Stonyhurst Gospel), the oldest surviving complete book, with its original binding, in Europe. This collection of texts surrounding the body of St Cuthbert raises issues that run right through the history of medieval English textuality.
Not reading the St Cuthbert Gospel
Books and bones
Yin Liu, 'Ways of Reading, Models for Text, and the Usefulness of Dead People,' Scholarly and Research Communication 5.2 (2014).