Sub-projects of the second phase 2015-2019

Since its first period of funding (2011-2015), CSMC conducts long-term fundamental research on manuscripts and manuscript cultures in ‘project areas’ :

In 2015 working groups for studying topics related to ‘manuscript practices’ were established:

Besides associated projects CSMC has a project for information infrastructure and an integrated graduate programme.

Project Areas | Working Groups

Project Area A: Paratexts

Project area A examines textual forms that exhibit physical and/or content-related dependencies on a main text. The relationship between paratext and the main text is a variable one: dependent elements can be integrated as part of the main text in the course of its life, while individual elements of the main piece of writing can become paratexts. As a written medium, manuscripts favour such flexible divisions and inclusions, particularly the process of transmission by copying. The project area therefore investigates reciprocity of this kind particularly in relation to the characteristics of specific manuscript cultures.

In a systematic way, three basic functions in terms of organising knowledge in manuscripts may be identified: a) when used as a means of establishing a sense of order, paratexts enable texts to be structured in line with different ideas and needs, b) in the form of commentary, they supplement or refine the subject matter described in the main text, and c) they document or regulate the knowledge imparted in manuscripts and the way in which the material support is dealt with. In addition to these points, a series of cultural and historical aspects are of interest that can be examined with the aid of paratexts, such as media differentiation, communication in knowledge traditions, and questions concerning the restriction of knowledge. The sub-projects that investigate these phenomena focus on different aspects of them as well as being linked to parallel questions addressed by the other project areas.


Literary Manuscripts in a Ritual Context: Linked Poetry (renga) in Medieval Japan

Linked poetry (renga) was one of the most popular literary genres in medieval Japan. Noting down the collaborative works by hand as they were being created orally was a procedure governed by precise rules and was an integral aspect of this kind of poetry along with the inclusion of the scribe’s role. The aim of this project is to shed more light on these practices of manuscript production and the ritual context in which they were embedded. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to look into the way in which the practices developed over time, what conditions they arose in and what influenced them. Historically, the aspect of poetic contests at court needs to be taken into account. The proximity of renga poetry to the sphere of religious manuscript culture in the Middle Ages also requires clarification.

Prof. Dr. Jörg B. Quenzer

Dr. Heidi Buck-Albulet

Poster A01

Teaching Language and Literature: Tamil Manuscript Compendia on Grammar

This research project on Tamil aims to examine a group of manuscripts containing excerpts from treatises on grammar in a broad sense, including not only syntax, morphology and phonetics, but also poetics, metre and rhetoric. This will allow us to understand the various contexts of teaching Tamil grammar more easily, this being a basic discipline first taught at primary level. The undertaking will acquaint students with the more formal levels of a highly diglossic language, not to mention the Tamils’ literary heritage.

Prof. Dr. Eva Wilden

Dr. Suganya Anandakichenin

Poster A04

Islamic Manuscripts with a Wide Spaced Layout as Mediators of Teaching Practices in West Africa

The West African Islamic manuscripts with wide space between the lines apparently point to teaching practices wherein extra space was planned for annotations. This project will explore possible correlations between the ample-space layout and textual genres in the Old Mande and Old Kanembu manuscript traditions and will investigate the questions of how teaching defined this specific layout and how these manuscripts mediated teaching practices.

Dr. Dmitry Bondarev

Darya Ogorodnikova, M.A.

Poster A05

The Changing Praxis of the 19th-century Malay Manuscript Economy

The advent of lithographic printing and the ongoing monetization of the indigenous society in the Malay world in the course of the 19th century had profound implications for the manuscript culture and the attitude of people towards manuscripts, their production and consumption. This research continues to map and investigate such changes by mining paratexts found in the manuscripts of a 19th-century lending library collection. It is hypothesized that manuscripts spawned new interactive networks of human agents and affected the reading habits of the recipients, thereby crossing ethnic and religious boundaries in a colonial cosmopolitan context.

Prof. Dr. Jan van der Putten

Siti Nurliyana Binte Taha, M.A.

Poster A06

Anisong (Ānisaṃsa) Manuscripts from Luang Prabang (Laos) in a Comparative Perspective

This project examines several manuscript corpora containing Buddhist texts of one of the most popular and widespread genres in the Thai-Lao world, namely preaching or homiletic texts known as Anisong. Usually written on palm leaf and generally quite short in nature, Anisong describe the rewards in terms of merit that a believer may expect from doing a particular pious deed. Anisong manuscripts have played a key role in Thai-Lao religious life for centuries, notably in transforming local customs into ‘Buddhist’ orthopraxy. They also reflect processes of modernisation in a lively and innovative manuscript culture.

Prof. Dr. Volker Grabowsky

Silpsupa Jaengsawang, M.A.

Poster A08

Structure, Indexing Systems and Liturgical Reading of Early Medieval Gospel Books

Gospel manuscripts are widely considered to be the most important books in medieval liturgy. They not only contain the Gospels as the Word of God that the priest read aloud during Mass, but also include a standardised corpus of paratexts. This project will examine how the physical characteristics of Gospel manuscripts were related to the usage of these books in liturgical reading, considering in particular the functions served by their paratexts and indices.

Prof. Dr. Bruno Reudenbach

Jochen Hermann Vennebusch, M.A.

Poster A09

The Leipzig Manuscript B. or. 227: Paratexts as witnesses of Islamic Ḥadīṯ scholarship

The Islamic traditions (ḥadīth), attributed to the prophet Muḥammad and his Companions, were first transmitted orally, later written down and finally compiled for major collections from the 8th and 9th centuries CE on. From here, ḥadīth sciences and commentaries evolved further. While the academic discipline of Islamic Studies has produced a number of studies on text transmission and teaching methods, it has dedicated only limited attention to ḥadīth commentaries. This sub-project investigates the concrete use of a ḥadīth manuscript in teaching practice and ḥadīthscholarship by studying a manuscript of the known collection of al-Bukhārī (d. 256/870), Jāmiʿ al-Ṣaḥīḥ. Due to its rich annotations and user entries (ijāzāt, samāʿāt, silsila), the Leipzig manuscript B. or. 227 (copied in 800/1398, most probably in Shiraz) is best suited for such a case study that aims at a comprehensive analysis of the material object, its users, and its commentaries.

Dr. Stefanie Brinkmann

Ali Zaherinezhad, M.St.

Poster A11

Project Area B: Visual Organisation

Project area B is concerned with the way in which manuscripts are organised visually, an area of research that lies “between” various disciplines and that is examined with a view to the constants and differences in various (manuscript) cultures. By “visual organisation” we mean the appearance of a manuscript and all the factors that constitute it, such as the size, form and shape of the manuscript, its colour or how written characters are arranged on it. The visual organisation relates to the types of characters used and the layout of the individual page, but it equally refers to the manuscript as a whole, i.e. the “ manuscript architecture”. If we regard a manuscript’s layout as the way in which a page and thus its surface area is organised, then our view of the architecture that the manuscript possesses extends to a three-dimensional space in which information is housed. The visual organisation of a manuscript is consequently a visual arrangement of knowledge, which depends on the scribe who created the work on the one hand, but which is also shaped by convention and norms on the other. The latter ensure that the information contained in a manuscript is and will always be capable of being understood, regardless of the manuscript’s uniqueness.

The sub-projects covered in this project area investigate how visual organisation is shaped by production, function and use, and which role these factors play in the process of transmission and reception of knowledge.


Manuscript Culture and Chant Communities: Liturgical Books and Manuscripts of Music Containing Polyphonic Compilations of the Ordinarium missae in Cultural Practices c. 1200–1400 AD

From the thirteenth century onwards, we can find an increasing number of polyphonic settings of the Ordinarium missae, both in liturgical books that were not intended to contain polyphonic music and in music manuscripts that were never meant to be used during the religious ritual of Holy Mass. The aim of this project is to examine such manuscripts used in a religious environment in terms of what functions they fulfilled and how knowledge about the performance of polyphonic music was notated and modernised by experts in the respective communities, which are now known as chant communities.

Prof. Dr. Oliver Huck

Dr. Andreas Janke

Poster B03

The usage of Qur’an manuscripts as objects within Islamic-Arabic culture: The example of miniature and roll Qur’ans

It is well known that manuscripts of the Qur’an were not only used for reading and reciting but that apotropaic, curative and other effects were ascribed to them. This becomes evident from the manuscripts themselves and from pre-modern literary Arabic sources as well as from modern European travelogues. The sub-project will investigate these usages by focussing on miniature Qur’ans and Qur’ans written on rolls whose outward appearance shows that they were not primarily produced for reading or reciting. Both types are already attested to since early Abbasid times. Their function will be examined on the basis of manuscripts preserved in several libraries and of their treatment in Arabic literature. In addition to the apotropaic and curative effects, the more general context of Arabic miniature books („pocket books“) and of manuscript rolls with non-Qur’anic content will have to be taken into consideration: potentially, Qur’an manuscripts may have been designed to have multiple functions.

Prof. Dr. Tilman Seidensticker

Cornelius Berthold, M.A.

Poster B05

Collecting, Extinguishing, Rewriting and Restaging Cultural Identity and History: Cultural Encyclopaedias on New Spain

This project examines three cultural encyclopaedias from New Spain (present-day Mexico), which have hitherto been interpreted as the result of missionaries collecting, recording and archiving pre-Hispanic knowledge. If, however, one takes the burning of pre-Hispanic manuscripts into account, which also took place at the time these were compiled, the multiple-text manuscripts the missionaries wrote and illustrated appear in a rather different light. The powerful effect which manuscripts like these encyclopaedias had on the processes of rewriting and restaging indigenous knowledge at that time is a key focus of this study.

Prof. Dr. Margit Kern

Dr. Anna Boroffka

Poster B07

Magia Figurata: The Visual Effect of Jewish Magical Manuscripts of the Early Modern Era

The research project entitled “Magia Figurata” intends to analyse, describe and categorise the physical and visual characteristics of early modern manuscripts containing Jewish magical texts. It thereby aims at achieving a better understanding of physical and visual aspects of the production and use of these magical manuscripts. The project will also illustrate how magical manuscripts shaped or even created reality due to the inherent authority they were claimed to possess.

Prof. Dr. Prof. h.c. Giuseppe Veltri

Michael Kohs, M.A.

Poster B08

The ‘Painting’ of Writing: The Iconicity of Writing and Word Pictures in Latin Psalter Manuscripts Used in Religious Rituals

Using a series of psalter manuscripts dating from between the 8th and 15th century, this project examines the role played by the ornamental and pictorial rendering of writing and by so-called ‘word pictures’ in the ritual use of manuscripts. In the context of changing practices of manufacture and use, this analysis provides a new approach to these phenomena, which are characteristic of medieval European manuscript culture and transcend the classic dichotomy that exists between writing and pictures.

Jun.-Prof. Dr. Hanna Wimmer

Karin Becker, M.A.

Poster B09

Narrating Theatre: The Reality and Context of Japanese Nō Manuscripts between the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period

This research project examines Japanese manuscripts from the transitional period between the Middle Ages and the early modern period (c. 1550–1650) containing texts and paintings relating to plays staged at Japan’s Nō theatres. The aim of the project is to reconstruct the cultural knowledge these manuscripts impart through their texts and pictures and consequently to enable statements to be made about their reception. Features of these works that have only been analysed individually to date such as their format, layout, writing and iconography, will be examined in more detail. This approach will allow us to uncover the cultural practices made possible by the unusual combination of media in these manuscripts: text / picture / theatre.

Prof. Dr. Jörg B. Quenzer

Berenice Möller, M.A.

Poster B10

Project Area C: Manuscript Collections and Manuscripts as Collections

As a rule, each manuscript forms, during its period of existence, part of at least one collection; and the understanding of the functions which an individual manuscript had (and in some cases has), and of its history, is dependent on uncovering the story of the collection(s) to which it belonged (and belongs) — collections which in turn have their own histories too. These collections may be of many kinds, ranging from private collections to public libraries. One of our principal goals is to reconsider the nature of collections, and their several functions, in manuscript cultures.

Manuscripts which are collections (of texts) are probably a feature of every manuscript culture. The focus of much of scholarship on texts has often overlooked this fact; but the organization of multiple-text manuscripts is in fact one of the most important clues to the function of texts and textual knowledge. Such a manuscript may in some cases reflect a collection of manuscripts. Thus the themes of collections of manuscripts and of manuscripts which are collections are closely related, offering different but essential and complementary perspectives on the organization of knowledge.


Esoteric Transmissions: The ’Vanaratna Codex‘ (Royal Asiatic Society, London, MS Hodgson 35)

The project is a study of the production and history of a single manuscript, Royal Asiatic Society, London, MS Hodgson 35, which has been shown to be an autograph of the famous 15th century Buddhist scholar Vanaratna. It contains, in its second part, mainly material translated by Vanaratna into Sanskrit from esoteric teachings received in Tibet and in Tibetan, as well as some verses of his own composition. This offers a unique window into the working methods of a learned Buddhist scholar, and into cross-cultural transmission of esoteric material.

Prof. Dr. Harunaga Isaacson

Dr. Martin Delhey

Poster C01

Reading Aloud, Memorising and Making Notes: Uses of Manuscripts in Alevi Village Communities in Anatolia

This project focuses on the manuscript culture that existed in Alevi village communities in Turkey, among which the level of literacy was still low up to the middle of the 20th century. Fourteen private collections of manuscripts will be scrutinised in order to examine the use of manuscripts in learning and teaching mainly of a religious character. The history, compilation and context of the collections will be investigated as sources for studying the use of these manuscripts in cultural practices. Questions to be addressed are: who wrote or used certain manuscripts, how did the various collections help to retain and impart knowledge, did their practical usage, e.g. reading them aloud, memorising them and making notes about them, had an effect on their subject matter or appearance, and if so, what kind of effect.

Prof. Dr. Raoul Motika

Janina Karolewski, M.A.

Poster C04

‘Parchment Saints’: The Making of Ethiopian Hagiographic Manuscripts – Matter and Devotion in Manuscript Practices in Medieval and Pre-modern Ethiopia

Developed from a late antique background, Ethiopian manuscripts that are part of local hagiography are attested from the fourteenth century onwards. The corpus of ‘parchment saints’ examined here has not been explored from the point of view of practices involving single and institutional figures. This research project focuses on the creation of hagiographic manuscripts as a foundational ritual act that established the cult of Ethiopian saints as canonical and also examines their role in context and in ritual practice.

Prof. Dr. Alessandro Bausi

Dr. Antonella Brita

Poster C05

Ancient Greek Manuscripts on Aristotle’s Works Used in Teaching and Their Interpretation

Codices of Aristotle’s Organon, a work of fundamental importance in training students’ intellect, are particularly suitable for researching the role that manuscripts once played in the classroom. These manuscripts contain highly com­plex layers of annotations attesting to a dialogue between teachers and their pupils and sometimes even connecting them to each other at different times and places. This project will use selected ma­nuscripts from Posterior Analytics to examine the layers of commentary and explanatory anno­tations in detail and to determine what function they had as part of classroom social practice and scholarly exegetical dialogue.

Prof. Dr. Christian Brockmann

Dr. Stefano Valente

Poster C06

Arabo-Swahili Manuscripts in Practice: Rituals, Ceremonies, Liturgies and Healing

The aim of this project is to investigate the manuscriptological aspects of Swahili cultural practices, exemplified by a study of the Qasida Hamziyya, a panegyric poem translated from an Arabic original into Swahili in the 18th century, which forms a central part of the Swahili Islamic literary canon. A corpus of Arabo-Swahili Hamziyya manuscripts which were accessed by fieldwork in the first phase of C07 will be subjected to a multi-facetted functional analysis in order to understand their widely divergent properties in design and language arrangement and the way they are shaped by production for and usage in a variety of contexts such as rites de passage (birth, marriage, delivery, burial), healing and in religious ceremonies performed during Ramadhan and at Maulidi festivals.

Prof. Dr. Roland Kießling

Ahmed Hussein Ahmed Parkar, M.A.

Poster C07

East Frankish Manuscripts Containing Collections of Formulae

This project will investigate manuscripts written in the eastern regions of the Frankish Empire during the 9th and 10th century which contain collections of formulae, i.e. sample letters and charters. Manuscripts of this kind are of great importance in understanding the culture of this period as they give us insights into the way in which scholars wanted to organise their knowledge and pass it on to others in the early Middle Ages. The aim of the project is to examine such manuscripts by treating them as textual evidence of monastic culture and investigating how they arose, what they contain and how they were used.

Prof. Dr. Philippe Depreux

Till Hennings, M.A.

Poster C08

For Readers and Collectors: Publishing Copies of Works on Demand in Peking between the Late 18th and the Early 20th Century

Between the late 18th and early 20th century, there were a number of publishing companies in Beijing that copied arias from operas, folk ballads and other short literary texts at their customers’ request and sold them from catalogues displayed at temple fairs. This research project explores how it was possible for a business model based on manuscripts to survive for more than a hundred years in an age of book-printing and lithography. It will examine how the manuscripts were produced and who bought them for what purpose.

Prof. Dr. Michael Friedrich

Dr. Zhenzhen LU

Poster C10

Private Archives as a Source of Literacy in Old Assyrian Society

Cuneiform clay manuscripts are 3D objects on which signs appear as negative imprints. Thousands of school tablets from Nippur dated to the 18th century BCE have enabled assyriologists to reconstruct the curriculum of scribal education, which looked quite academic. School texts found in the archives of Assyrian merchants who settled in Central Anatolia (19th cent.) bear witness to on-the-job training. In fact, it has been suggested that, besides professional scribes, many Assyrian men and a number of women would have learnt the basics of writing at home.
Such an assumption can only be confirmed by systematic paleographical and scribal studies and by the analysis of text layout and the typology of tablets in specific private archives that have recently been excavated.

Prof. Dr. Cécile Michel

Wiebke Beyer, M.A.

Poster C11

On the Archive as an Agent of Knowledge in the Context of Cultural Sciences in Europe

This project is concerned with manuscripts, artefacts and documents within the disciplinary context of Volkskunde which are kept in the Archive of the Landesstelle für Berlin-Brandenburgische Volkskunde (ALBBV) in Berlin. This specific body of manuscripts will be analysed from an ethnographical as well as an historical viewpoint with the aim of reconstructing the context and practice of producing knowledge in cultural anthropology before and after 1945. Furthermore, the archive will be investigated in the perspective of its own agency as producing knowledge and expertise for today’s scientific community.

Prof. Dr. Sabine Kienitz

Integrated Graduate Programme


Integrated Graduate Programme Manuscript Cultures

The programme is designed for the PhD students of the CSMC and will host external PhD students from Germany and from abroad who will get a scholarship. The programme offers a structured doctoral training, and wishes to impart skills in interdisciplinary manuscript research including lectures on historical and comparative manuscript research as well as workshops on methodological issues. In addition, workshops teaching job-related skills are also offered.

Prof. Dr. Oliver Huck


Sub-project Information Infrastructure


Data Repository Manuscript Cultures

This project is intended to ensure the systematic storage and long-term use of data acquired in research projects undertaken at the SFB. By using a central MyCoRe installation that has already been tested extensively, ineffective local data management in individual research projects is not needed anymore. A data repository for digital objects which also contains descriptive meta-data is to be developed based on the projects’ individual requirements. The data repository will also make virtual collaboration possible and is intended as a central virtual platform for researchers involved in the SFB’s projects.

Prof. Dr. Michael Friedrich

Dr. Stefan Thiemann

Karsten Helmholz, M.A.

Cristina Mossoni, M.A.
Poster INF

Project Area Z: Scientific Service Projects

The key words visualize, analyze, and characterize bring together three projects that are of fundamental and integrating importance for the planned special research area as a whole and for all of the individual plans. The aim is that they will have effects beyond the SFB and that they will result in sustainable computer-technological tools for manuscript research and a developed store of methods for future research. The three technically supporting projects with their respective foci supplement and cooperate closely with each other: Z01 centers on optical procedures for visualization; Z02 on a broad spectrum of natural-scientific material analysis; and Z03 on computer-supported characterization of script and signs. All these methods are non-destructive and non-invasive and do not alter the objects of research.

Here, the material foundations of manuscript culture and the substrates of script and pictures, as well as styles of script and forms of signs, are being investigated with current natural-scientific and information-technical procedures. This work requires close interaction among the humanities, the natural sciences, and informatics: the manuscript sciences provide the questions and point to difficulties that have been insoluble until now; in close contact with these manuscript sciences, the technological projects will work out new approaches to solutions and find answers.

Technologically, the long-term gains of these partial projects will be a workplace for computer-supported manuscript analysis, a “mobile laboratory” for the non-destructive examination of manuscripts on site, and extensive digitalization equipment including the necessary expertise to restore damaged or erased script. In terms of systematic scientific method, a transdisciplinary handbook is being developed for working with manuscripts in the areas of digitalization, material analysis, and computer-supported script characterization.


Manuscript Analysis to Recover Lost Writing

In this project, modern technology is used to recover manuscript texts that are illegible due to accidental damage, intentional erasure or palimpsesting. The project employs one of the very latest technical systems for high-resolution multispectral imaging for this purpose and draws on several years of experience in its mobile use as well as tried and tested methods of evaluating the image data obtained with it. Specialised imaging work is being carried out for numerous sub-projects conducted at the SFB, and the interdiscipli­nary methodology employed in analysing manuscripts is being enhanced using technical approaches together with staff working on project Z02 and Z03.

Prof. Dr. Christian Brockmann

Ivan Shevchuk

Poster Z01

Material-science Methods of Reconstructing the History of Manuscripts

Now that a mobile laboratory has been set up, we are ready to support the scientific research projects planned for the second phase of the SFB’s work. Various non-destructive testing techniques (NDT) will be employed to this end such as optical microscopy and molecular and X-ray spectroscopy. In addition to this, we shall focus on assessing and adapting various existing material-science procedures and on developing a material database to facilitate the study of manuscripts.

Prof. Dr. Oliver Hahn

Prof. Dr. Ira Rabin

Dr. Olivier Bonnerot

Dr. rer. nat. Sebastian Bosch

Poster Z02

Image Processing Methods for Determining Visual Manuscript and Character Features

Having successfully created a prototype of an image-processing workbench for manuscript analysis known as ARMA, the focus of coming work in this project is on enhancing the existing tools and providing services with them. The aim here is to provide a generic platform (a portal-based solution) with established and novel methods of image processing/analysis in order to facilitate practical research. At the end of the second phase of funding, a pilot system will be available for collaborative use called the “Advanced Manuscript-analysis Portal” (AMAP).

Prof. Dr.-Ing. H. Siegfried Stiehl

Dr.-Ing. Volker Märgner

Thomas Konidaris, PhD

Hussein Adnan Mohammed, M.Sc.

Poster Z03