Medieval Latin Paleography: 1100-1500

Phil. 248, Green 351D

R. Wood (

Mondays, 5:15-7:05 pm., Green 351D


        A course in the history of writing and editorial methods for medieval texts in philosophy, cosmology, physics, psychology, and theology.  Phil 248 prepares students for research with original medieval manuscripts.  Emphasis is on distinguishing characteristic letter forms and spelling peculiarities which date and place medieval manuscripts.


       Scripts considered are Romanesque or Protogothic, Gothic or textualis, Cursive (Antiquior & Modernior), Bastarda, and Humanistic. Medieval abbreviations, punctuation, and codicology are introduced.  


Instruction in the use of reference works such as incipit collections, manuscript catalogs and facsimile collections is provided in conjunction with the class project.   The class project is to study, describe, and transcribe a chapter in a medieval encyclopedia or Compendium composed about 1240, but still considered a good basic introduction to philosophy in the fifteenth century, when Pope Sixtus IV (Della Rovere) ordered his own copy.  Intended for well-educated non specialists, the Compendium philosophiae tells us how medieval thinkers, from poets to physicians, believed the world worked – about matter and form, ethics and theology, but also about storms and earthquakes, pelicans and donkeys.


      In addition to the class project, there will be a final exam.   Open to graduates and undergraduates.    Knowledge of Latin is a pre-requisite.




January  3: Introduction to Paleography and reference resources


January 10: Dated French manuscripts 


January 17 (MLK): Abbreviations


January  24: Dated German manuscripts 


January 31:  Codicology


February 7:  Dated Italian manuscripts


February 14:  Punctuation


February 21 (President’s Day): Dated British manuscripts


February 28: Class project discussion


March 7: Dated Iberian manuscripts


March 14:  Rare Books & Manuscripts Visit




Course requirements: Transcription, Presentation, Edition, Examination

Required purchase:  Course Reader, "Medieval Latin Paleography."



Strongly Recommended Books:

      A. Derolez, The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books, from the Twelfth to the Early Sixteenth Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.        

      Chambers Murray Latin-English Dictionary; 501 Latin Verbs.


Recommended Books:

      M. Brown:  A Guide to Western Historical Scripts,  Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1990-1999.

      F. Moreland & R. Fleisher, Latin: An Intensive Course,  Berkeley: UC Press, 1990.  

      S. H. Thomson, Latin Book Hands, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1969.