Size Matters: Portable Medieval Manuscripts

After my rather downer post on the state of publishing today, I just can’t resist reasserting the ultimate value of the book. Take a look at these and check out the related blogs. So beautiful and reverent


By Irene O’Daly

Medieval books were often expensive to produce, and usually the property of institutions. But some manuscripts were copied specifically for individuals, and designed to be carried on the person. Portable manuscripts come in many different forms and each is a witness to a different context of use – a valuable insight into medieval culture. Size is a major factor influencing the portability of an object, indeed, it can be a defining characteristic in evaluating the potential use-context of a manuscript, as discussed here in another blog entry. But size does not always tell the full story.

Take, for example, the production of one-volume Bibles in the thirteenth century. These Bibles (often termed ‘Paris Bibles’, as Paris was the major, though not only, centre of their production) represented a dramatic departure from previous practices. Bibles were traditionally large, often copied in separate volumes, but Paris Bibles were…

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About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
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