Much archival research in Renaissance Studies depends on manuscripts and early printed books. Such objects, however, can be intimidating to navigate, or in the case of manuscripts, downright forbidding in their obscurity. This course will examine the development of writing, its various forms, and the cultural contexts of dissemination in Renaissance Italy. It aims to provide postgraduate students with an overview of paleography and book history, along with a practical toolkit for conducting their own archival research.
We will begin by examining the evolution of scripts and abbreviations frequently found in manuscripts from the period with a comparative eye to Latin and English paleographic traditions. The course will address relationships between image and text in manuscripts, the manuscripts of philosophers and documents written in dialect. We will then move on to consider the advent of printing and the stages of publication for early printed books. In this regard, we will discuss the frequent cross-pollination of manuscript and print cultures in Renaissance Italy, the burgeoning world of the Italian book trade, and the role of censorship during the Catholic Reformation. Whilst the first half of the course will feature lectures and group transcription practice, the second half will focus on the development of students’ own research projects, culminating in an informal test and brief student presentations.