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I recently attended the fifth annual “Understanding the Medieval Book” symposium at the University of South Carolina. This event, organized each year by Dr. Scott Gwara of the USC English department, brings together about 20 participants for two days of lectures and workshops by an expert medievalist. Registration is free, and the symposium always draws a wide range of attendees– students, teaching faculty, librarians, rare-book dealers– who provide diverse perspectives on using medieval collections. Meetings are held in the Irvin Rare Books & Special Collections department of the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library, making use of the library’s extensive collection of medieval manuscript codices and fragments.
This year’s expert facilitator was Dr. David Gura, Curator of Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts, Early Imprints, and History of the Book at Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute. Dr. Gura led participants in a crash course on bibliographic description and citation of medieval manuscripts. He also gave a presentation on a fascinating project with which he is involved at Notre Dame– an attempt to reunite and digitize all pages of a Breton book of hours recently broken up and sold piecemeal by a dealer in Germany.
As usual, I came back from the symposium with useful information and some new ideas about ZSR’s small but interesting collection of medieval manuscripts. Dr. Gwara is also in the process of launching a new digital humanities initiative called Manuscriptlink, which will collect digitized fragments from libraries throughout the world. ZSR Special Collections will participate in this digital collection, and we are looking forward to making our previously “hidden” manuscripts available to a worldwide scholarly audience.