Readers and Manuscripts

Andrew Taylor

in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Latin Literature

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195394016
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Readers and Manuscripts

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  • Classical Studies
  • Classical Reception
  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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Medieval scholars often described reading as the disinterested and impersonal pursuit of wisdom, deploring any markings of books that were not strictly scholarly. Bury shares a recurring tendency in medieval culture to fuse the wise men of the past and the texts they bequeathed into auctores. There are numerous examples of dedicated professional readers, scholars who made it part of their job to annotate, cross-reference, and catalog books. One of the most impressive of all these professional readers was Henry of Kirkestede, a monk at Bury St. Edmund, who was at various times responsible for the novices and for the care of the books, and probably combined the two duties as precentor, before becoming subprior in 1361. Women were discouraged from annotating books, even if they were in religious orders. One of the recurring themes in the history of reading is that of the gradual adoption of monastic or clerical habits of reading by ever-broadening circles of lay people.

Keywords: medieval scholars; auctores; Henry of Kirkestede; Bury St. Edmund; clerical habits

Article.  9769 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Reception ; Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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