Crafting knowledge in the early medieval book:

practices of collecting and concealing

Queen’s University, Belfast, 12-13 July, 2021

Online via Zoom


Mariken Teeuwen, Michael Herren, John Contreni, Evina Steinová, Pádraic Moran, Franck Cinato, Patrizia Lendinara, Rosalind Love, Anna Grotans, Anna Dorofeeva, David Ganz, Mary Garrison, Ildar Garipzanov, Kees Dekker, Michael Clarke, Andy Orchard, and Aya Van Renterghem.

Professor Mariken Teeuwen (Dept. of History and Art History, Utrecht University, and senior researcher, Huygens ING, Amsterdam);  Professor Michael Herren (Distinguished Research Professor, York University and the University of Toronto, emeritus);  Professor John Contreni (Professor of History, Purdue University, West Lafayette, emeritus);  Professor David Ganz (Chair of Palaeography, King’s College London; University of Notre Dame; emeritus);  Dr Evina Steinová (NWO VENI postdoctoral research fellow, Huygens ING, Amsterdam);  Dr Pádraic Moran (Classics, National University of Ireland, Galway);  Dr Franck Cinato (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Paris);  Professor Patrizia Lendinara (Professor of Germanic Philology, University of Palermo, emerita);  Professor Rosalind Love (Erlington and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon, University of Cambridge);  Professor Andy Orchard (Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo Saxon, University of Oxford); Professor Anna Grotans (Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, Ohio State University); Dr Anna Dorofeeva (Lecturer in Digital Palaeography, University of Göttingen);  Dr Mary Garrison (Dept. of History, University of York);  Professor Ildar Garipzanov (Dept. of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo);  Dr Kees Dekker (English Historical Language and Literature, University of Groningen);  Professor Michael Clarke (Classics, NUI, Galway);  Dr Aya van Renterghem (Durham University Library)

Colloquium Chairs and Participants:

Professor Susan Rankin (Professor of Medieval Music, University of Cambridge), Professor Dáibhí Ó Cróinín (Professor of History, NUI, Galway, emeritus), Professor Immo Warntjes (Ussher Assistant Professor in Early Medieval Irish History, Trinity College Dublin), Professor Elizabeth Tyler (Professor of Medieval Literature, University of York), Dr Christine Rauer (Reader, School of English, University of St Andrews), Dr Máirín MacCarron (Lecturer in Digital Humanities, University College Cork);  Professor Máire Ní Mhaonaigh (Professor of Celtic and Medieval Studies, ASNC, University of Cambridge)


Dr Sinéad O’Sullivan (Reader in History, Queen’s University, Belfast) and Dr Ciaran Arthur (Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellow, NUI, Galway)


The colloquium seeks to explore how knowledge was crafted in the early medieval book. It has two main interrelated areas of interest: the practices of collectio and of concealment.

Collectio in the early medieval West underpinned scholarly productions from bilingual manuals to vademecums. It was at the heart of major enterprises such as the creation of glosses, glossaries, encyclopaedic works, commentaries, and compendia. Examination of the practice of collectio demonstrates that scholars often drew upon a well-defined tradition of authorities and authoritative works. Moreover, the practice was far from simply a derivative activity. Collectio was often accompanied by other practices, such as those of synthesising, supplementing, reworking, and cross-referencing. Through a process of collectio, materials old and new were continually being assembled and synthesised. Furthermore, collectio was an open-ended process, attesting to scholarly efforts to reach out into a wider world of learning. The significance of collectio is well known from the writings of Frances Yates and Mary Carruthers, who have demonstrated that the practice was de facto part of ancient and medieval invention, which was integral to the art of memory, that depended on the construction of inventories of inherited materials.

Concealment and obscurity played another key role in early medieval textual culture. Building on the work of Michael Lapidge on hermeneutic Latin and Jan Ziolkowski on obscurity, the colloquium seeks to examine how layering of signification, polysemy of meaning, archaisms, neologisms, exotic languages, puzzles, word play, ambiguity and obscurity were important aspects of early medieval book culture. Obscurity – however strange it now may seem – was no vain exercise. It was in line with well-known interpretative practices aimed at rendering knowledge less than immediate. Historians of the twelfth century have recognised the importance of obscurity, focussing attention on the concepts of integumentum and involucrum, which came to mean a “covering” under which truth lies hidden. The colloquium aims to explore the practices of rending obscure that predate this twelfth-century predilection for integumental reading and the new types of scholarship associated with the beginnings of the universities.


The papers will be published in a book: Crafting knowledge in the early medieval book: practices of collecting and concealing in the Latin West, ed. Sinéad O’Sullivan and Ciaran Arthur, Publications of the Journal of Medieval Latin 16 (Brepols)

Create your website with
Get started
%d bloggers like this: