Writing and History in the Fragments of the Bibliothèque nationale de France

F-zpm3: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Latin 9488, f. 3r


Full Title: Retracing the Past: Writing and History in the Fragments of the Bibliothèque nationale de France

Partner Institution: Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris 

Financed by: Stavros Niarchos Foundation

Project Leader: Dr. Laura Albiero, Institut de Recherche et d'Histoire des Textes – Paris

Project Duration: August 2019 - July 2020

The Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) has one of the most important and most prestigious manuscript collections in the world. Less well known is the fact that it has one of the most important fragment collections. Within their manuscript holdings, for example, the Latin collection includes a large number of manuscript fragments that were used as flyleaves or binding material. The collection has different layers, corresponding to its development from the royal library of Charles V (1338-1380) to the twenty-first-century national library of France. In addition, the provenance of manuscripts and prints is quite diverse, so that the fragments do not all come from the same source. While it may seem surprising that such a significant amount of our irreplaceable written heritage sits in a national library of Europe, without even an adequate inventory, the situation is not uncommon. The need to catalogue, describe, and publish these materials is one of the major reasons for the Fragmentarium project, and a high-profile example will not only lead to important and exciting discoveries, it will provide a blueprint for other institutions.

The sub-project Retracing the Past will concentrate on fragment volumes in the Latin collection, which represent about 30% of the total number of fragments identified. These volumes, most of which were put together in the nineteenth century, gather together binding waste, either removed from manuscript books in the BnF or from other French libraries and archives (and then sent to the BnF). These volumes organize fragments thematically. The purpose of this project is to reveal a hidden part of our written culture by drafting an exhaustive catalogue of these fragments and publishing it, along with the fragments, in open access. Dr. Albiero will achieve this aim by starting with the list that she has already compiled and developing it by inspecting each volume on it. Every single fragment will be studied, dated according paleographical features and described according to the Fragmentarium protocol; the text will be identified and indexed with references to repertories and editions. Particular attention will be addressed to fragments coming from the same manuscript, and, when we have enough evidence, to the relation between the fragment and the type of binding from which it comes. A partial reconstruction of an original manuscript will be possible in specific cases.

Dr. Laura Albiero (Ph.D., Palaeography, University of Rome La Sapienza 2011), has extensive experience in manuscript cataloguing, and is an international expert in liturgical fragments.

Show Documents for this Project