The study of medieval manuscripts and early book culture is massive and specialized. The increasing sophistication, however, of digital technologies is making it easier to learn about manuscripts and examine them in detail.Below, I've gathered useful introductory resources to accompany the readings I assign in manuscript units.
Paleography is the study (and deciphering) of ancient handwriting. I don't spend much time on paleography in my medieval courses. Most students are doing well to conquer Middle English in typeset, normalized student editions, without tackling the vagaries of medieval scribes and their peculiarities. I won't ask you to "read" a manuscript without access to, at minimum, a transcription of its texts, and usually I try to match manuscripts with student editions or translations.
But for those of you who are interested, here are a few resources that you can consult on your own.
In my medieval manuscripts course, we frequently work intently with Books of Hours -- digital facsimiles from other libraries as well as specimens available at the UGA Special Collections Library. The resources below are to help both the neophyte and the experienced student engage with these complex books. This page will be in constant evolution as the manuscript/Books of Hours courses shift; suggestions welcome.
Resources with an astericks (*) next to them are high quality scholarly sites; the rest are designed as basic material for students or the general public.
I have gathered here a wide array of resources -- mostly digital, but some crucial print ones -- for the study of Middle English culture, language, and literature. Although students are my primary audience (I assign material from many of these websites in my courses), I also use these pages as a repository for the increasing number of excellent scholarly websites, especially but not exclusively digital editions, online indices and databases, and manuscript facsimiles. These pages are therefore constantly under construction, as I continue to add (and sometimes remove) content.
Trying to read your first lines of Middle English on your own? Reading an edition that never glosses the words you don't understand? Preparing for an oral reading? Writing a paper and wanting to talk about Chaucer's use of a certain word? Start here to get a handle on Middle English comprehension, pronunciation, and syntax (i.e., word order).
Do I have to read Middle English in class?
Yes, I do expect you to read Middle English aloud in class when asked to do so, and I expect you to do so in a reasonable approximation of a Middle English accent. Why? Two reasons: