Objects of affection recovers the emotional attraction of the medieval book through an extended engagement with a single fifteenth-century literary collection known as Oxford, Bodleian Library Manuscript Ashmole 61. Exploring how the inhabitants of the book’s pages – human and non-human, tangible and intangible – collaborate with its readers then and now, this book addresses the manuscript’s material appeal in the ways it binds itself to different cultural, historical, and material environments. This new materialist manuscript study traces the affective literacy training that the book, produced by a single scribe, provided to a late medieval English household. Its diverse inhabitants are incorporated into the ecology of the book itself as it fashions spiritually generous and socially mindful household members – in the material world they generate and that guides their living, and in the social and spiritual desires that shape their influences in that world.
This book is the first published edition of a previously unknown manuscript treatise on the theological underpinnings of witchcraft belief in late sixteenth-century England. The treatise comprises a point-by-point response to the most famous early modern English work on witchcraft, Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584). It was written by a personal friend of Scot’s, and internal evidence demonstrates that it offers critical feedback on a now-lost draft version of the Discoverie prior to the publication of that book, providing a rebuttal to Scot’s arguments in much greater detail than any other extant text, and showing precisely why his views were so controversial in their own time. The treatise is also a highly original and sophisticated theoretical defence of witchcraft belief in its own right, and the author’s position is based on detailed scriptural and theological arguments which are not found in any other English writings on the subject. The treatise’s arguments connect witchcraft belief to Reformed Protestant ideas about conscience, the devil, and the correct interpretation of scripture, and demonstrate the broader significance of witchcraft belief within this intellectual framework. It thereby provides evidence that the debate on witchcraft, as represented by the more dogmatic and formulaic printed works on the subject, shied away from the underlying issues which the author of the treatise (in a work never intended for publication) tackles explicitly.
This book challenges long-standing interpretations of the Carolingian period (c.750-900) as an age of ‘reform’ or ‘renaissance’, in which culture was subjected to a programme of correctio (correction). This understanding, which leans heavily on prescriptive texts issued by the monarchy, has long foregrounded royal initiative and the cultural products of a small intellectual elite. Understudied texts and manuscripts of the period, however, reveal a much more universal concern for moral improvement and change for the better. This expressed itself in varied ways depending on the resources, connections and aims of the individuals and communities who produced them. Their horizontal networks of exchange and personal relationships could be just as influential as top-down prescription. The often anonymous creators and copyists in a huge range of centres emerge as active participants in the shaping and re-shaping the ideas and ideals of their world. A much more dynamic picture of Carolingian culture emerges when we widen our perspective to include them. We can see that the Carolingian age did not witness a coherent programme of reform, nor one distinct to this period and dependent exclusively on the strength of royal power. Rather, it formed a particularly intense, well-funded and creative chapter in the much longer history of moral improvement for the sake of collective salvation.
and evolutions. (Book history, for example, has been positioned as
dovetailing with so-called distant reading.) 4 For convenience, I will call this amalgamation
manuscriptstudies, recognising that this term is
used by others both in more specific and more general ways, and that not
all scholars who understand themselves to be working under this label
would want themselves associated with all (or perhaps any) of the
the book's object agency in the array of communities collaboratively generated across its lifespan, circulating among its manuscript, print, and digital iterations. Direct contact with the slender codex's soft paper pages covered in brown ink in the early 2000s transformed what had been a multi-manuscriptstudy of late Middle English romance into a project dedicated to this single manuscript, known at that time primarily for its textual aberrations and misbehaving scribe.
Already a devotee when its modern edition
Between 1598 and 1800, an estimated 3, 271 Catholic women left England to enter convents on the Continent. This study focuses more particularly upon those who became Benedictines in the seventeenth century, choosing exile in order to pursue their vocation for an enclosed life. Through the study of a wide variety of original manuscripts, including chronicles, death notices, clerical instructions, texts of spiritual guidance, but also the nuns’ own collections of notes, this book highlights the tensions between the contemplative ideal and the nuns’ personal experiences. Its first four chapters adopt a traditional historical approach to illustrate the tensions between theory and practice in the ideal of being dead to the world. They offer a prosopographical study of Benedictine convents in exile, and show how those houses were both cut-off and enclosed yet very much in touch with the religious and political developments at home. The next fur chapters propose a different point of entry into the history of nuns, with a study of emotions and the senses in the cloister, delving into the textual analysis of the nuns’ personal and communal documents to explore aspect of a lived spirituality, when the body, which so often hindered the spirit, at times enabled spiritual experience.
Pastimes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986)
Nevitt, Marcus, ‘The Insults of Defeat: Royalist Responses to Sir William Davenant’s
Gondibert (1651)’, The Seventeenth Century, 24 (2009): 287–304
Nixon, Scott, ‘ “Aske me no more” and the Manuscript Verse Miscellany’, English
Literary Renaissance, 29 (1999): 97–130
Robson, Mark, ‘Reading Hester Pulter Reading’, Literature Compass, 2 (2005),
DOI:10.1111/j.1741-4113.2005.00162.x (accessed 27 April 2017)
Robson, Mark, ‘Swansongs: Reading Voice in the Poetry of Lady Hester Pulter’,
English ManuscriptStudies 1100
and manuscriptstudies. Libraries that cannot collect
medieval manuscripts are often able to put together a facsimile
collection that may well cover a wider range of styles, genres and
historical periods than many smaller collections of original
manuscripts. Facsimiles are also bought, admired, loved and studied by
the amateur, the private owner, the student and the lover of the Middle
Ages. They are
different degrees and in different ways, certain kinds of cultural
studies, historicism and book history or manuscriptstudies (to name a
few of the pertinent approaches) emerged as shrewd recalibrations of the
field’s object of study, ones for which value is (putatively)
incidental rather than defining, or at most an object of sociohistorical
inquiry. In short, the field recovered its rationale by pushing value
Punctuation and the voicing of late medieval devotional literature
globally to the extant manuscript record.
It is nonetheless increasingly being recognised that
the effort to propose and test broadly applicable theorisations of
the role of the medieval scribe is essential to the field of
manuscriptstudies, writ large. Michael
Johnston and Michael Van Dussen, for example, have recently argued
that ‘we need to synthesize the many things we have