Early medieval Latin Europe lacked easy access to writing materials such as paper. Parchment, the main medium of written culture, was quite expensive. Thus, readers and scribes often used blank spaces in early medieval manuscripts to make casual records, copy excerpts, and record small texts that they wanted to preserve for some practical purpose. Since such small additions have no meaningful relation to manuscripts’ main texts and often lack any history of textual transmission, they have commonly been overlooked by textual scholars. Yet they are potentially an invaluable source of information for cultural historians, for whom such texts offer a unique window into early medieval everyday practices that are not readily accessible via normative texts.
This project will look through this window and analyze three groups of such textual additions. First, it will examine legal additions, especially those that record practices such as judicial ordeals that are rarely mentioned in early medieval legal manuscripts. This will provide valuable insight into legal practices such as “delivering” the judgement of God and into the role of priests in early medieval legal culture. Second, it will systematize a large number of additions and pen trials that contain musical notation, which reflect developments in 9th-and 10th-century liturgical practices and are much closer to the performative origins of musical formulas than are later normative texts. Third, it will investigate medical additions within a broader context of surviving early medieval medical miscellanies. The lack of systematic medical treatises in the early Middle Ages makes such additions representative of early medieval medicine. Studying them systematically will yield better understanding of early medieval medical practices and the transmission of practical medical knowledge in concurrent textual culture.
VOICED seeks to amplify the “voices on the edge” of early medieval textual culture, that is, the short texts added to Latin manuscripts before c. 1000, most often on their flyleaves, but also in the margins. Devoid of headings in capital or uncial letters, transcribed in humble, and in some cases, amateurish, minuscule script, and relegated to the edges of parchment books, some in rather bad condition, these texts have commonly been neglected by textual scholars and cultural historians working with the manuscripts' main texts. Yet, these extraneous additions provide unique access to the diverse cultural practices that generated them as well as to related “low-profile” pragmatic knowledge.
VOICED will highlight the rich potential of these voices, focusing on three sizable groups of short texts added to Latin manuscripts produced before c. 900. Specifically, it will
1. investigate what role legal additions played in the transmission of pragmatic knowledge related to legal practices,
2. examine how normative texts of Christian liturgy and actual performative practices intersected in textual additions with musical notations, and
3. scrutinize how medical additions relate to both early medieval medical miscellanies and concurrent medical practices.
By analyzing these three groups of textual additions, VOICED will thus allow hitherto marginalized voices to be heard in the current discussions of early medieval legal, musical, and medical practices. In doing so, it will contribute significantly to current academic debates within medieval studies over the relationships between the normative law and Christianized practices in legal culture, between the norm and diversity in liturgical practices, and between earlier textual traditions and evolving praxis in medieval medicine.