Katherine Hindley, assistant professor of medieval literature at Singapore’s Nanyany Technological University, discusses the advantages of studying palaeography as a cross-institutional community.
My interest in manuscript studies began as a postgraduate student on a class visit to Vercelli. We got stranded in Italy because of the Icelandic volcano eruption and spent a week exploring the archive in the Biblioteca Capitolare, including the remarkable Vercelli Book which is a key source for Old English poetry.
Most universities do not have many (if any) manuscript specialists. As director of the London International Palaeography Summer School (LIPSS) at the Institute of English Studies (IES), I can recognise the advantages of studying palaeography as a cross-institutional community. We can bring together exceptional expertise. Now manuscripts can be in one place, students in another, and teachers in another, and students who don’t normally have access to manuscripts or tuition can learn how to work with specialist sources.
In 2021, LIPSS launched a general course designed to introduce students to key skills for manuscript studies as well as short, focused courses in particular areas. Not every university offers palaeography training, so short courses can act as introduction to research with original materials, or as a way to see whether you like manuscript studies before committing to a longer course
Reading original sources opens new research materials and questions, which our students apply in lots of creative ways in academia and beyond. Short courses can also provide masterclasses in specific advanced skills. This lets students specialise and brings them into contact with other people with similar interests.
LIPSS has become truly international. In 2021 we worked hard to put together an online programme, and although we spent less time with manuscripts in the classroom, we worked with students from all over the world, as well as with UK-based students who would not have been able to travel to London to take part. It has been revolutionary in facilitating access and it has changed how we’re planning LIPSS for the future.
Katherine Hindley is assistant professor of medieval literature at Nanyany Technological University, Singapore. She received her PhD from Yale University in 2017 and holds degrees from the University of Oxford.