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Research Seminar on Medieval Manuscripts


Fragments on Fridays is a UBC iSchool research seminar open to all UBC students interested in learning more about medieval manuscripts and their material features (codicology) and script (paleography). The seminar has a strong hands-on character and centers around fragments of medieval manuscripts. After the introduction of print in Europe, c. 1455, thousands of manuscripts were recycled by bookbinders, who used their sturdy parchment pages to support the inside of book bindings and as the resilient exteriors to some books (more info). While these stowaways were ignored in scholarship for a long time, they are now treated as valuable research objects which contribute significantly to our understanding of the European Middle Ages. Several platforms for their study have been created, including Fragmentarium.


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Starting 10 January 2020, Fragments on Fridays runs 3-5 pm each Friday and is taken on a not-for-credit basis by students. The seminar is organized in collaboration with the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington. The Folger collections are particularly rich in fragments which await description. Fragments on Fridays provides students with the opportunity to learn how to describe manuscripts. The resulting descriptions will be included in the Folger catalogue, opening this important fragment collection up to the academic community at large. Apart from learning how to describe manuscripts, students will be taught about medieval written culture more broadly, for example, through the plenary evaluation of some fragments. The goals of this seminar include teaching participants to identify the different medieval script families, as well as both dating and localizing a manuscript based on the scribe’s handwriting.


The seminar is organized and supervised by Erik Kwakkel, Professor of Book History at UBC iSchool. This initial session runs during Winter II term and is free and open to all students and researchers, at all levels, from the UBC community. Sign up if you are interested in participating; you are welcome to join either for the full seminar schedule, or just to see if this is something for you. Come join us as you are: no prior knowledge of languages or manuscripts is required!


Meeting schedule for Term II

January 10, 17, 31
February 7, 14, 28
March 6, 13, 20
April 3, 10, 17, 24

Time: 3:00 – 5:00 pm (all sessions)
Location: Terrace Lab, UBC iSchool (Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, 4th floor)


Sign up for Fragments on Fridays


Fragments on Fridays

For additional information, please contact the organizer at
Photo credits: Erik Kwakkel