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Reviewed by:
  • Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts in Microfiche Facsimile ed. by A. N. Doane and Matthew T. Hussey
  • Tiffany Beechy
Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts in Microfiche Facsimile. Vol. 28, Bede Manuscripts,
edited by A. N. Doane and Matthew T. Hussey, descriptions by Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 559. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2020. xii+57 pages, with accompanying DVD.

As perhaps with all things amid the pandemic, volume 28 of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts in Microfiche Facsimile (ASMMF) arrived with melancholy, announcing that it would be the last of a series that was originally intended to include about forty volumes. The series “aims to produce complete microfiche facsimiles of the five hundred or so manuscripts containing Old English,” with slim booklets of accompanying “descriptions [. . .] prepared by experienced scholars basing their work on first-hand examination of the manuscripts and extensive research” (vii). The series thus hews to Neil Ker’s original focus on Old English in his 1957 Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon (a focus not observed by Helmut Gneuss and Michael Lapidge in their expanded 2014 handlist, Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts). While a founding aim of the ASMMF was to make manuscripts accessible for study outside of library reading rooms, that goal is fast being superseded by digitization. High-resolution digital facsimiles are now so widely available that the microfiche images that ASMMF provides on DVD, in a quality matching “the standards of good black-and-white microfilm production,” are more or less obsolete, as is the DVD format in which they are delivered (vii). This reviewer does not even have the proper hardware in her computer anymore with which to view them. Nevertheless, we are still in a between-time, in which while the most famous manuscripts have been fully digitized, many others have only a few folios available online. Therefore, besides access to a manuscript in person, the ASMMF images continue to provide the only access to certain manuscripts until we reach full digitization. It is a shame, therefore, that the series’ production has been cut short.

Certainly no charge of obsolescence can be leveled at Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe’s excellent descriptions of the manuscripts, which are characteristic of her clear style and comprehensive knowledge. Her entries update Ker’s descriptions, as well as those of Gneuss and Lapidge, drawing on other relevant scholarship as well, and provide [End Page 335] helpful bibliographic references. The descriptions are, in fact, indispensable. Accordingly, in light of the fact that digital repositories are now moving toward adding more context (beyond the images themselves), and in light of the ASMMF series ending, it seems sensible to suggest what occurred to me as I read through the description booklet: the superb erudition of the ASMMF descriptions should ideally be paired with the superb reproduction quality of existing online collections— for instance, the British Library (https://www.bl.ukmanuscripts/) or the Parker Library on the Web, hosted by Stanford University (https://www.parker.stanford.edu)—which as of now provide only cursory accompanying materials for their manuscript images. The ASMMF entries would enhance these resources significantly; and in my opinion, the series editors should team up with these libraries to fulfill the project’s original mission: to “[provide] students and scholars with a fundamental tool” (vii). Such multipronged collaboration would no doubt be a formidable organizational and funding task, but this kind of interdisciplinarity is an important component of the future of the academy, in both research and teaching. If manuscripts are to be truly accessible, the expertise of many is required, from preservationists, digitizers, and web developers to paleographers and codicologists and literary historians.

A note on the works collected in Bede Manuscripts: only four of the nine appear to contain works by Bede. All the manuscripts are from the Bodleian Library at Oxford. There are, of course, many other extant Bede manuscripts—for example, in the two-series volumes dedicated to the collection at Cambridge University’s Corpus Christi College. Thus, the title of this volume is a bit misleading. [End Page 336]

Tiffany Beechy
University of Colorado, Boulder
...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2162-9552
Print ISSN
2162-9544
Pages
pp. 335-336
Launched on MUSE
2021-11-01
Open Access
No
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