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Meeting a Medieval Manuscript – with students at Exeter University

By Emma Laws, Cathedral Librarian

I recommend reading Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel, published by Allen Lane in 2016. The Guardian described it as a ‘love story’, and I am inclined to agree. De Hamal has ‘met’ more medieval manuscripts than most. He worked in the Western Manuscripts Department of Sotheby’s for 25 years before moving to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, as the Fellow Librarian of the Parker Library. In his book, he invites us to accompany him on a journey to visit just twelve manuscripts from the middle ages held in libraries around the world. His idea is that we ‘meet’ the manuscripts, as we might meet old friends.

Meeting manuscripts, and even printed books, is something I like to encourage among our visitors at the Cathedral Library. This year, eight students from The University of Exeter have been ‘meeting’ one of our medieval manuscripts: Bishop Lacy’s Pontifical (MS 3513). With funding from Exeter’s Education Incubator Fund, these final-year students have been working together to get hands-on training in researching medieval manuscripts. After months of intense study, the students have gained an in-depth knowledge of the manuscript which will help us update our catalogue record, but I hope they have also developed a familiarity – perhaps even a friendship – with the manuscript, and have departed mindful of having spent time with something precious.

The students’ blogs include their first impressions of the manuscript and top tips for reading medieval manuscripts and can be read on the University of Exeter website via the links below: