French paleography institute

Fig. 1. Privilege issued by Henry IV, Paris, 1582, p. 1. From the Barga Collection, Newberry Case MS 5A 48.
Fig. 1. Privilege issued by Henry IV, Paris, 1582, p. 1. From the Barga Collection, Newberry Case MS 5A 48.
Fig. 2. Privilege issued by Henry IV, Paris, 1582, p. 2. From the Barga Collection, Newberry Case MS 5A 48.
Fig. 2. Privilege issued by Henry IV, Paris, 1582, p. 2. From the Barga Collection, Newberry Case MS 5A 48.
Fig. 3. Privilege issued by Henry IV, Paris, 1582, p. 3. From the Barga Collection, Newberry Case MS 5A 48.
Fig. 3. Privilege issued by Henry IV, Paris, 1582, p. 3. From the Barga Collection, Newberry Case MS 5A 48.
Fig. 4. Marc Smith
Fig. 4. Marc Smith
Fig. 5. Institute session
Fig. 5. Institute session
Fig. 6. Session in Special Collections
Fig. 6. Session in Special Collections
Fig. 7. Session in Special Collections
Fig. 7. Session in Special Collections
Fig. 8. French Paleographers at the Newberry, Summer 2012
Fig. 8. French Paleographers at the Newberry, Summer 2012

We are halfway through the second week of this year’s Mellon Summer Institute in French Paleography, with two-and-a-half weeks to go. The institute is being taught for the third time by Marc Smith, who is Chair of Paleography, Mediaeval and Modern, at the École Nationale des Chartes in Paris.

Fifteen advanced PhD students and faculty members from the disciplines of history, French literature, and art history are learning to read the handwriting of French documents and archival materials written during the thirteenth through the seventeenth centuries. As you can see by the first three images to the left, by the sixteenth century the scribal hands can be quite inscrutable (click on the images to see a larger pop-up). Under Prof. Smith’s guidance, the participants are becoming familiar with how and why handwriting developed as it did, as well as other aspects of written communication in the relevant periods.

In addition to practice reading and transcribing copies of documents (see figures 4 and 5), the participants are also holding weekly sessions in the Newberry’s Special Collections, working with actual medieval and early modern French materials. The first session (see figures 6 and 7) featured primarily medieval codices—and one roll.

This summer’s program is part of a series of summer institutes in four European vernacular languages, funded by a major grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The program is overseen by the Newberry Center for Renaissance Studies and hosted by the Newberry and a number of institutional partners. These institutes are helping to revitalize the fields of medieval and Renaissance studies in the U.S. by providing skills-based training in manuscript studies that is crucial to primary-source research in early humanities fields. After completing an institute, participants are able to read original documents and therefore to undertake advanced archival projects that would not otherwise have been possible for them. And, in addition to providing training in reading vernacular hands, the institutes bring graduate students and junior professors into contact with internationally-renowned research collections at their host institutions.

Mellon Summer Institutes in Vernacular Paleography, 2005 – 2008

2005

Mellon Summer Institute in Spanish Paleography

at the Huntington Library, directed by Carla Rahn Phillips, University of Minnesota

Mellon Summer Institute in Italian Paleography

at the Newberry Library, directed by Armando Petrucci, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa; and Franca Petrucci Nardelli, University of Pisa

2006

Mellon Summer Institute in English Paleography

at the Folger Shakespeare Library, directed by Heather Wolfe, Folger Shakespeare Library

Mellon Summer Institute in French Paleography

at the Newberry Library, directed by Bernard Barbiche, École Nationale des Chartes, Emeritus

2007

Mellon Summer Institute in Spanish Paleography

at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, directed by Carla Rahn Phillips, University of Minnesota

Mellon Summer Institute in Italian Paleography

at the Getty Research Institute, directed by Maddalena Signorini, Università degli Studi di Roma

2008

Mellon Summer Institute in English Paleography

at the Huntington Library, directed by Heather Wolfe, Folger Shakespeare Library

Mellon Summer Institute in French Paleography

at the Newberry Library, directed by Marc Smith, École Nationale des Chartes

2009

Mellon Summer Institute in English Paleography

at the Folger Shakespeare Library, directed by Heather Wolfe, Folger Shakespeare Library

Mellon Summer Institute in Italian Paleography

at the Getty Research Institute, directed by Maddalena Signorini, Università degli Studi di Roma

Mellon Summer Institute in Spanish Paleography

at the Huntington Library, directed by Carla Rahn Phillips, University of Minnesota

2010

Mellon Summer Institute in French Paleography

at the Newberry Library, directed by Marc Smith, École Nationale des Chartes

2011

Mellon Summer Institute in Spanish Paleography

at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, directed by Consuelo Varela, Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos de Sevilla

Mellon Summer Institute in Italian Paleography

at the Newberry Library, directed by Maddalena Signorini, Università degli Studi di Roma

2012

Mellon Summer Institute in French Paleography

at the Newberry Library, directed Marc Smith, École Nationale des Chartes, Paris

Mellon Summer Institute in English Paleography

at the Huntington Library, directed by Heather Wolfe, Folger Shakespeare Library

For more information, see our Mellon paleography institute web page; check back in the fall for information on possible future institutes.

See also our list of Paleography Resources.

- Posted by Karen Christianson

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