occasional papers

The Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC) regularly hosts meetings to discuss the theory, terminology and other issues in manuscriptology. Several of its members – philologists, historians, art historians, linguists and others – collectively engage in contributing to the systematic and historical study of manuscript cultures.
The documents uploaded to this page are individual contributions and drafts reflecting some of the provisional results of the centre’s activities. Its members welcome comments on any of the documents published here.

The following papers have been published:

6: Definition of Paracontent

Core- and paracontent Expressions such as “this manuscript contains …” or “the content of this manuscript is …” are ubiquitous and reveal much of how is perceived what is to be found in a specific manuscript. Usually, this would be a text, a group of texts (e.g. the Bible), a text with its commentary, but also pictures such as in sketch-books, or musical notation. This is called core-content.
However, a manuscript may contain further sets of visual signs related to the core-content, such as a preface, maybe written by someone else than the author of the core-text found in the manuscript, the notes of a reader or a cataloguer of the manuscript, a table of contents added maybe centuries after the production of the manuscript, a diagram, etc. This is called paracontent. This term is used in order to avoid ambiguities of the more familiar term paratext often used to refer to textual elements only.

Definition of Paracontent (PDF)

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5: Reconstruction of Early Chinese Bamboo and Wood Manuscripts:
A Review (1900–2010)

As integral part of the broader field of the study of early Chinese manuscripts, reconstruction efforts regarding bamboo and wood manuscripts from pre-imperial and early imperial China can be dated back to the first important finds of such manuscripts in the early 20th century. To explain the importance of the most recent developments and to be able to integrate these new perspectives into the frame of criteria and methods that have been developed over the past century, a review seems in order. As new stages in the development of criteria and methods were often enabled by new discoveries and the respective manuscript publications, this review will not try to draw a comprehensive picture of all research related to this topic. Instead it will highlight the most important trends and the manuscript discoveries they were based on. In conclusion it will provide a catalogue of the criteria that were applied for reconstruction until the year 2010 and point out remaining problems.

Reconstruction of Early Chinese Bamboo and Wood Manuscripts: A Review (1900–2010) (PDF)

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4: Questionnaire for the Study of Manuscript Collections
Preliminary summary of the collaborative work in project area C towards a typology of manuscript collections

Collections of manuscripts can be of a very different nature. They can be in the possession of an indi-vidual, a group of people or an institution, who might use the objects in an exclusive manner or grant the right of access and use to others. Moreover, they can be situated in households or in edi-fices of particular communities, kept in shelves or stored in boxes, and so on. Surely, there are many more aspects that have to be considered when describing the nature of a collection, e.g. aspects related to its function or contents. In order to put an emphasis or generalize, one normally classifies a collection in regard to only a few of these aspects. Thus, among others, attributes such as private, public, imperial, monastic, scholarly and priestly are commonly used to describe a collection. But it is not evident at all on which aspect or combination of them a particular attribute bases. For instance, is a collection private in regard to its owner or to its user? And is a collection scholarly in regard to its contents or its use? Besides, at a closer look, some attributes proof less self-explaining as probably assumed. Do attributes like private, public, scientific and religious represent an academic (sometimes anachronistic) abstraction or do they reflect concepts actually existing in a given culture?

Questionnaire for the Study of Manuscript Collections (PDF)

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3: A heuristic tool for the comparative study of manuscripts from different manuscript cultures

Written and discussed as part of the ongoing collaborative work of the CSMC’s “Theory and Terminology” group, this paper presents a tool for the comparative study of manuscripts from different manuscript cultures. The model depicts a particular manuscript within a manuscript culture in relation to the various key factors which have shaped its content and appearance, and which continue to shape its use. Inspired by Andreas Hepp’s schematic rendering of Raymond Williams’ model of a culture as a “Bedeutungssystem” (semantic system), it represents a culture in which at least some types of knowledge and actions are preserved, transmitted, organised and performed by means of manuscripts. It is designed as a heuristic device a) for the analysis of the characteristics and functions of an individual manuscript within a manuscript culture and, most importantly for the purposes of the CSMC, b) as a basis for a systematic comparison of the characteristics and functions of manuscripts from different manuscript cultures.

Download A heuristic tool for the comparative study of manuscripts from different manuscript cultures (PDF)

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2: Wordlists for Libraries and Closely Related Phenomena
in Different Manuscript Cultures from Asia, Africa and Europe

In the present paper, we are collecting indigenous terms that are more or less equivalent to the English word “library.” With the word “library” we have mainly in mind the most usual way in which the English term is used, namely library as a collection of books and as a designation for the place that contains these books. We are taking into consideration institutionalized libraries as well as those that are not institutionalized (for instance, collections for private personal use). From the perspective of use, the quantity of books collected does not matter (Richardson 1914: 8), either.

In scholarly publications, the meaning of the word “library” is sometimes also extended to a multitude of texts collected into one volume (“one-volume library,” i.e. MTM). Moreover, Too (2010: 84), for instance, also speaks of types of libraries in which no physical objects are involved (“walking libraries” or “memory libraries”). In all these cases, we do not collect systematically indigenous equivalents. However, if in a specific culture a term for library can also be used in such a metaphorical way, this will be noted. For the time being, general terms for the actors involved, e.g. “librarian,” are only taken into consideration in the case of some manuscript cultures. Similarly, other terms for physical places where written documents are stored such as “archive” and “chests” are not systematically collected.

It is obviously far from easy to find a definition of the term “library,” which works equally well for all manuscript cultures. Rather than forcing all related phenomena into the Procrustean bed of a common definition, it seems to be more advisable to use other tools for a systematic comparison of all cultures. One possible way to approach this task is to collect indigenous terms for the sake of understanding how the manuscript cultures themselves conceptualise(d) book collections.

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1: Searching for a definition of “manuscript”

This document contains a list of working definitions of the term ‘manuscript’ taken from appropriate literature on the topic. The definitions collected here are the serendipitous result of an initial search and have been classified into four main sections: main sections:

  • A: manuscript as a handwritten document
  • B: manuscript as a codex
  • C: manuscript as a book
  • D: manuscript as a medium

Section C refers to a more general understanding of ‘book’ since codex books do not occur in all manuscript cultures. The various definitions are arranged in chronological order in each section.
This document served as a starting point for a lively discussion within the Theory and Terminology working group at the CSMC. Anyone is welcome to propose further definitions of relevance to our work and comment on the undertaking, which we regard as being work in progress. We look forward to hearing from you.

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by Marilena Maniaci, Università degli Studi di Cassino, Italy

Three general remarks:

  1. the list comprises ‘dictionary entries’ (i.e. ‘definitions’ in the strict sense), (more or less relevant) encyclopedic-style articles, ‘thoughts’ directly or indirectly related to the object of the search. The distinction should be maybe more clearly highlighted (not all the collected texts are equally useful for the purpose (se point 2)
  2. what exactly is the intention of this ‘brain storming’? a) to delimit the very ambiguous term ‘manuscript’, by criticizing the meanings given by the various authors? b) to create an own definition of ‘manuscript’ aiming at the identification of a specific research field?
  3. should the definition encompass any kind of ‘material vectors of a text’ (A. manuscript as handwritten text), or only those which are meant from the beginning to be read by a (vaste) audience and to last in time (B., C., and partly D; note that the two criteria are missing in the final list, see below)?

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