EYCH 2018-lezing: 'Why the Matter of Medieval Manuscripts Matters to Cultural Heritage' (Kathryn Rudy)

Gebonden manuscript

Professor Kathryn Rudy (University of St Andrews) geeft op woensdag 14 november in het Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel een lezing over de fysieke omgang met manuscripten in de middeleeuwen. De lezing is in het Engels en vindt plaats in het kader van het Europees Jaar van het Cultureel Erfgoed (EYCH2018) en staat geprogrammeerd op het Overlegplatform voor erfgoedbibliotheken 2018. Na afloop is er een receptie.


As literacy grew during the three centuries before the printing press, people learned not only how to read, but also how to handle their manuscripts. Certain physical gestures that readers enacted with illuminated manuscripts — including kissing or laying hands on certain images, and rubbing out the faces of others — imparted a ritual significance to books.

Just as our twenty-first-century culture of ever-smaller screens has created a set of gestures and habits that had not previously existed (typing with two thumbs, scrolling, clicking, tapping), reading manuscripts, which were increasingly available in the late Middle Ages, also gave people a new set of physical gestures.

In this talk Dr. Rydy considers the settings and circumstances by which readers learned to handle — and deface! — their manuscripts. She argues that people in authority, including priests, teachers, parents, and legal officials, touched books publicly to carry out rituals. In so doing, they inadvertently taught audiences how to handle books in highly physical ways. Cumulative wear in books testifies to how they were used and handled. By considering the physically matter of books, we can better understand our changing gestures, fears, desires, and passions.


Kathryn Rudy (professor and researcher, University of St Andrews, Fife) is an art historian conducting research related to "the secret lives of medieval manuscripts".

Kathryn Rudy (Kate) earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University in Art History, and also holds a Licentiate in Mediaeval Studies from the University of Toronto. Before coming to St. Andrews, she held research, teaching, and curatorial positions in the US, the UK, Canada, The Netherlands, and Belgium. Her research concentrates on the reception and original function of manuscripts, especially those manufactured in the Low Countries, and she has pioneered the use of the densitometer to measure the grime that original readers deposited in their books. She is currently developing ways to track and measure user response of late medieval manuscripts.

Professor Rudy is the author of five books, including Rubrics, Images and Indulgences in Late Medieval Netherlandish Manuscripts (2017); Piety in Pieces: How medieval readers customized their manuscripts (2016); and Postcards on Parchment: The Social Lives of Medieval Books (2015). She currently (2017-2018) holds a Paul Mellon Senior Fellowship to write a book about physical interactions with the manuscript in late Medieval England.

In 2018-2019 she will be a fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in Amsterdam to complete a book about manuscript production in Delft. From 2019-2022 she will hold a Leverhulme Major Research Grant for a study titled ‘Measuring medieval users’ responses to manuscripts: New technological approaches’. She has held grants from, inter alia, the British Academy, the Bodleian Library, Oxford; the Getty Research Institute, and the Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie (IKKM) at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.


Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel
Regentschapsstraat 30
1000 Brussel


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  • Agendabericht
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  • 09-10-2018
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  • David Coppoolse (Vlaamse Erfgoedbibliotheken)