Blog—Stories from the Newberry Center for Renaissance Studies

Inspiring Manuscript Studies

Azadeh Odlin, English Language and Literature and Humanities, University of Western Ontario

Case ms y 1565 w95 vol 2 127 o2

Mary Wroth, Urania, call number: VAULT Case MS folio Y 1565 .W95

I attended the virtual undergraduate seminar, The World in the Book: 1300-1800, at Newberry library offered by the Center for Renaissance Studies from September to December of 2021. Each week, the course facilitators, Dr. Lia Markey, Dr. Rebecca Fall, and Dr. Christopher Fletcher organized a new topic and invited field-specific scholars to present and answer our questions on the related material. Throughout this ten-week program, I had the opportunity to learn and discuss a broad range of topics relating to the ways medieval and early modern people used different media such as the book of a prayer, map of the Ottoman empire, travel narratives of the Silk Road, reference works to the Aztec culture and language, and Mary Wroth writing in the seventeeth century. The course helped me to gain historical perspective into my current understanding of world’s culture and global economy through the lens of rare books. The Newberry’s knowledgeable staff and visiting guest speakers’ enthusiasm for these old manuscripts and printed books inspired me to do a little bit of digging into medieval manuscript at Western University rare book archive collection.

In many of the seminars, we discussed the influence of marginal notes, drawings, or doodles on our interpretation of the global economy, which refers to the interconnectivity of worldwide economic activities between multiple counties from the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century. Then we would discuss the contemporary application of a book’s provenance and examine our understanding of the book and the story it tells through written reflections and group discussions in smaller cohorts. From this discussion, I have become interested in medieval manuscripts’ marginalia, and the transformation of codices into digital libraries.

As a result, I have created a website, Marginal Obsession with Medieval Manuscripts, where I explore various topics related to marginalia in particular and medieval manuscripts in general, and review seminars, interviews, and events related to Medieval manuscripts. I owe my inspiration to the The World in the Book: 1300-1800 course by Newberry library. It has been a privilege to attend the course and connect with so many like-minded people.

Azadeh Odlin
English Language and Literature and Humanities
University of Western Ontario