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  • The Annotated Book in the Early Middle Ages: Practices of Reading and Writing ed. by Mariken Teeuwen and Irene van Renswoude
  • Christine E. Bachman

Manuscript studies, annotation, textual transmission, early medieval, reception

Mariken Teeuwen and Irene van Renswoude, eds. The Annotated Book in the Early Middle Ages: Practices of Reading and Writing. Turnhout: Brepols, 2017. 795 pp, 41 black and white illustrations. €140. ISBN: 978-2-503-56948-2.

This substantial contribution represents a major outcome of the multi-year and multifaceted Marginal Scholarship project. The project, headed by Mariken Teeuwen of Universiteit Utrecht and Huygens ING, ran from 2011 to 2016. The project team sought to compile evidence for marginal annotations in manuscripts of the Early Middle Ages (defined as ca. 800–ca. 1000) and also to promote marginal annotations as a major topic of inquiry. The current volume brings together twenty-five papers originally presented at a conference organized as part of the project, held in The Hague in June 2015. An introduction by the editors and an epilogue by David Ganz frame these papers. The full list of contents is available at

The guiding principle—that marginal annotations contain a wealth of evidence for how manuscripts were written, read, and interpreted within the intellectual environment of the early Middle Ages—builds on the pioneering work of earlier scholars, most importantly David Ganz's work on the monastery of Corbie and John Contreni's work on the Cathedral School of Laon. Moreover, this publication alongside the project's online Marginal Scholarship Database ( shows how the recent mass digitization of manuscripts and development of sophisticated databases and analytical tools provide opportunities to assess larger bodies of evidence and to incorporate that evidence into larger projects using innovative approaches drawn from a variety of disciplines. The Annotated Book in the Early Middle Ages thus contends with themes that have long been central to the field, while also presenting new methods to address those questions and advance the study of early medieval manuscripts. The [End Page 429] richness and variety of the studies included make it an indispensable resource for anyone confronting questions of early medieval education, reading practices, and manuscript use.

The essays are divided into four thematic sections. The first section, "Scholars and Their Books: Practices and Methods of Annotating," contains five essays that explore the systems used for annotation, by both individual scholars and workshops (Vocino, Pezé, and Vignodelli), as well as larger trends within specific temporal and geographical contexts (Teeuwen and Steinová). In this section, an expansive definition of practice emerges, one that includes page layout, the writing of the text, the process of research, and the division of labor. The emphasis on the human element within the practice of annotation is welcome as it is crucial for understanding the choices made when annotating as well as variations and anomalies between different manuscripts or within the same manuscript. The capabilities of the Marginal Scholarship Database are brought to the forefront in Mariken Teeuwen's essay, "Voices from the Edge: Annotating Books in the Carolingian Period." Teeuwen not only summarizes the technological context out of which the database grew, but also describes the data contained in the database and how that data might be used to generate profiles of annotations in, for example, specific writing centers or specific genres of texts.

The second section, "Textual Scholarship by Means of Annotation," contains seven essays that analyze annotations as part of an active process of editing and interpreting the text. This process can occur through the creation of new editions of texts (Cinato and Kwakkel), through the use of lacunae (Stover), and through the use of shorthand systems of letters, symbols, or abbreviations (Schiegg, Hellmann, Nievergelt, and Cevolini). The complex and dynamic relationship between early medieval scholars and their ancient and late antique predecessors is a significant theme that comes from these authors' analyses of annotations. The importance of digitization is again highlighted in Markus Schiegg's essay, "Source Marks in Scholia: Evidence from an Early Medieval Gospel Manuscript." Digital editions of manuscripts allow Schiegg to efficiently and systematically search...


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