45th Annual Saint Louis Conference on Manuscript Studies

The Saint Louis Conference on Manuscript Studies is the longest running annual conference in North America devoted exclusively to medieval and Renaissance manuscript studies. Previously organized through the Vatican Film Library, the program each year offers a variety of sessions addressing topics such as paleography, codicology, illumination, textual transmission, library history, provenance, cataloguing, and other manuscript-related material. As reported in the September 2017 issue of the newsletter Manuscripts on My Mind, beginning in 2018 the conference will be held under the auspices of the CMRS as a mini-conference embedded in the annual Symposium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies held in June.

The keynote speaker for the 45th Annual Saint Louis Conference on Manuscript Studies will be Roger Wieck (The Morgan Library and Museum, Melvin R. Seiden Curator and Department Head, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts). His lecture will focus on the art of exhibition-curating, considering elements such as how a topic is generated; why certain objects are chosen for display; what types of publications are best suited to accompany an exhibition.

As a reminder, we would like to reiterate key topics that represent the core of manuscript studies. These include the production, transmission, reception, and circulation of pre-modern manuscripts. Within this sphere lie paleography and codicology, encompassing the materials involved in the fabrication of handmade books and the design and organization of their script, articulation, and decoration. The observation and analysis of these physical details often contribute vital information to our investigations of the social, political, and economic circumstances concerning these objects. We therefore encourage you to highlight these tangible elements, amongst other factors, in papers submitted to this conference.

Sessions Seeking Proposals

Memorable Manuscript Exhibitions

To accompany the keynote lecture we are soliciting papers for a panel that highlights recent or past manuscript exhibitions—in the U.S. or Europe—that have had an impact on the public and on scholars. Presenters should discuss the content, organization, physical details, and other criteria that produced outstanding displays of the material and provided lasting cultural contributions. Submissions by manuscript curators, conservators, scholars, and other professionals in the field will be particularly welcome.

The Production of Manuscripts in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: Why, Where, for Whom?

Upon the invention of moveable type, printed books began to supplement and eventually replace production by hand. However, in various cultures manually-crafted books continued to flourish well into the eighteenth century, and even beyond. This session will consider the patronage and the locations of production of these early-modern manuscripts, with special attention to reasons for the continuity of this tradition.

Unconventional Iconography: Decoding Image and Allusion

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries illuminators executed pictures for both religious and secular texts that generally followed standard illustration programs that had developed over time. Occasionally, however, we find unusual compositions used at familiar text locations that appear to have nothing to do with their contents. These variations may be due to a specific request by a patron; to a little-known regional pictorial tradition; or perhaps to a quirky personal interpretation by the artist. Have you found images of this sort? and how have you deciphered them?

Influences from, or Reflections of Diverse Artistic/Craft Media in Manuscript Illuminations

Medieval craftsmen worked in a range of artistic media and employed a variety of materials and processes to generate characteristic physical and visual features. Papers in this session are encouraged to explore the efforts of illuminators to replicate or simulate the same effects in the medium of manuscript painting. Examples could include the textile arts, metalwork, and glass.

Signs and Symbols: Editorial Shorthand by Scribe and Reader

We find many instances in medieval manuscripts, particularly in textbooks used in secondary or university classes, of abbreviated annotations by readers or scribes that draw attention to or briefly clarify words or passages of the text. The most common are the ubiquitous pointing fingers or hands placed against the columns, or the acrobatic arrangement of the letters N O T A, forming sigla for the advice "nota bene." There are often more esoteric marks, however, whose identity and purpose are not immediately clear. Papers will discuss some especially challenging examples of this type.

In addition to the preceding panels, you are also welcome to propose sessions or individual papers on topics of your particular interest. Submissions may be sent directly to Susan L'Engle (susan.lengle@slu.edu). Please submit paper titles and abstracts (250 word maximum) no later than December 31, 2017. Upon acceptance, please follow registration procedures found here.