“Thys ys my boke”: Imagining the Owner in the Book
"I take my craft seriously, as you can tell by my use of the word 'craft'." (Rogelio de la Vega)
My post, the Jeremy Griffiths Professor of Medieval English Palaeography, is supported by the tremendous generosity of John and Jeanne Griffiths, in memory of their son, the great scholar of manuscripts, Jeremy Griffiths. You can read about him here. Mr and Mrs Griffiths also kindly support a studentship each year for the MSt. in English 650-1550, for which I teach.
I studied and formerly taught in Cambridge, and I've had visiting research or teaching posts in the USA. As well as teaching in Oxford, I am Executive Secretary of the Early English Text Society and one of the editors of The Review of English Studies.
I study manuscript and early printed copies of English literature, primarily from the twelfth to the early sixteenth centuries, in order to see what they reveal about writing habits and reading habits and literary history. Within this field, my special interests are copying, errors and corrections; marginalia and other ‘genres’ of writing about reading; humanist literature; carols and lyrics; fifteenth- and sixteenth-century courtly poetry and interludes.
I see palaeography and codicology as advanced forms of close reading – the interpretation of ancient writing as a material artefact – and thus as similar to other forms of literary criticism. I've tried this approach briefly in my chapter of a book I co-edited on The Production of Books in England 1350-1500 (2011) and in a book Scribal Correction and Literary Craft: English Manuscripts 1375-1510 (2014), a study of scribes as themselves close readers. There is a podcast of an interview about this book with my colleague Adam Smyth here. That book was joint winner of the DeLong Prize for book history awarded by SHARP in 2015.
I've explored other aspects of scribal intelligence in a study of book design, Designing English: Early Literature on the Page (2017), to accompany an exhibition at the Bodleian Library from 1 December 2017. I'm now researching scribal craft, design and agency in physical book making and in fifteenth-century calligraphy. There are some preliminary thoughts about fiftyeenth-century handwriting in a lecture from 2013 available as an audio podcast here here.(The lecture was accompanied by slides and a clip from YouTube of the children's puppet-showSesame Street, which are cut out, for reasons of copyright. The first part of this inaugural lecture is 'occasional', comprised of personal thanks and in-jokes.)
I'm also interested in the history of reading, which I’ve explored in a few articles and in my book on Humanism, Reading and English Literature 1430-1530 (2007). I’ve also conducted other research into humanist literature in the 1400s and 1500s.
Teaching Areas: In the Faculty of English I primarily teach for the MSt. course in English Language and Literature 650-1550 and the new paper in 'Material Texts' for Course II, the special option in medieval literature which some undergaduates choose. I supervise or have supervised doctoral research on topics ranging from twelfth-century manuscripts of Gildas to early Tudor prison graffiti, with a concentration on writing and reading practices in the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
On Twitter see @DanielWakelin1, and for the EETS see @EEngTextSoc