University College Dublin: Medieval Manuscript Fragments

Marsh's Library. Dublin


Title of the Course: "Medieval Manuscript Fragments" (ENG41950) listed as an option course for the Masters in Medieval Archives and Records Management, but also available to students taking the MA in Medieval Studies.

Instructors: Dr. Niamh Pattwell and Dr. Elizabeth Mullins

Institution: University College Dublin (Ireland) with Marsh's Library, Dublin

This is a workshop-style module which focuses on palaeographical skills and knowledge of manuscripts in a research environment. Working with medieval manuscript fragments selected by the course coordinator and librarian, the module introduces students to the processes of transcription, editing, identification, description and analysis of manuscript fragments found in  Marsh's Library. Students normally make one or more on-site visits to Marsh's Library, where they measure and study the fragment assigned to them. Because of the restrictions to movement arising in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, such a visit was not possible in the Spring of 2021. Instead, the course was delivered (synchronously) and students worked with digital images supplied by Marsh's Library. In addition, the students had two online guest speakers: Dr. Chantal Kobel at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies and Dr. Margaret Connolly at the University of St Andrews, both of whom work with fragments. Key to the success of the module were two seminars with Fragmentarium, (University of Fribourg), which was funded by the UCD Global Engagement Seed Fund. On April 6th, Dr. William Duba introduced the students to the Fragmentarium website, including instruction on how to input material into the Fragmentarium CMS. In the following two weeks, each student created entries for the fragment on which they had been working for the trimester. On April 20th, the students presented their findings to the Fragmentarium team (Drs Laura Albiero, William Duba and Christoph Flüeler) from whom they received enormously helpful input and feedback. Although not quite the course that was planned, we (students and instructors) gained both depth and breadth from the input of all our speakers, reflecting on the ways in which fragments originate, considering what exactly is a fragment, how fragments contribute to the understanding of medieval book culture. We were particularly delighted with the opportunity to work with Fragmentarium and to contribute to the study of fragmentology across the world. Students on the MA in Archive and Record Management, in particular, will have benefited from engagement with the very impressive Fragmentarium CMS.