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Understanding Form

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After a short introduction to the nature and purposes of palaeography and codicology, two examples are given of what a codicologist does with a medieval manuscript, which is more than, or different from, what a philologist or art historian does with it. Codicological research into both the famous Maerlant manuscript (Groningen UL, MS 405) and the fascinating codex with the Lancelot Compilation (The Hague, Royal Library, MS 129 A 10) reveals facts and views which call some commonly accepted opinions about these important manuscripts into question. New perspectives for further research are proposed.

Apart from researching manuscripts in their medieval setting it is interesting to see what collectors of these books have done with their treasures in more recent centuries. Codicological research shows that one of them, the church historian Willem Moll, was primarily interested in their textual contents and not in the books as such. For example, he made himself guilty of 'codicosurgery' by dividing three manuscripts, all of them acquired at an auction in 1852, into eight new volumes. This means that those who study texts in their codicological context, i.e. in relation to all the other texts in the same binding, have to realize that the present context may differ greatly from the original one. Working with texts or illustrations in medieval manuscripts it is always important to benefit from flanking codicological research.

Affiliations: 1: University of Amsterdam, Netherlands


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