Centring the marginal: Western medieval manuscript fragments in the Bodleian Library

Jemima Bennett (University of Kent, in partnership with the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford) 

Supervised by Dr David Rundle and Dr Emily Guerry (Kent) and Matthew Holford and Nicole Gilroy (Oxford)   

Jemima graduated from the University of Exeter with a first-class BA in Classics in 2019 and went on to complete an MSt at the University of Oxford in Greek and Latin Languages and Literature in 2020. Since then, she has also spent a year on the Bodleian Libraries Graduate Training Scheme (2021-2022), based in New College Library, Oxford, where, through working with special collections, she was able to continue to develop her interest in, and experience of, manuscript studies.

Jemima’s project will focus on medieval manuscript fragments used in the late medieval bindings of books. Old or outdated medieval manuscripts were frequently cut up and repurposed for their parchment, often as the endleaves of bindings. Jemima will use the manuscript fragments in late medieval books to examine the bookbinding context in which this fragmentation took place, as well as contemporary attitudes to fragmentation itself. 

As well as adding to research on late medieval bookbinding, and engaging with the currently relevant concept of reuse, Jemima also hopes that her project will contribute to a change in the way manuscript fragments are viewed, not as incomplete, lesser versions of ‘full’ manuscripts, but as complete objects, in themselves valuable to research.

Main image: Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Bodl. 851, detail of inside lower board © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford