I’m excited to say that my colleague Liv Ingeborg Lied and I recently signed a contract with Yale University Press to co-author a book tentatively titled Working with Manuscripts: A Guide.
The goal of the book is to demystify manuscript studies by providing a step-by-step guide to the ethical and practical challenges associated with the study of premodern manuscripts.
Both of us benefitted from what might be described as a philological education. We learned languages, and we were trained in the traditional rules of exegeting ancient texts. Along the way, however, we both became increasingly interested in the physical manuscripts that carried these texts.
As our research carried us more deeply into the arena of manuscript studies–in my case mostly Greek manuscripts and in Liv Ingeborg’s case mostly Syriac manuscripts–we gained an awareness that studying actual manuscripts really did offer great rewards, but it also posed numerous unexpected challenges–from ethical questions about manuscript provenance to practical questions about accessing manuscripts and learning the unspoken rules of manuscript reading rooms. While our training prepared us to handle some of these obstacles, in many cases we had to learn new skills and seek out expert guidance.
It would have been ideal if there had been a “one-stop” book that could have helped us navigate these mazes, and this is the book we are writing. Working with Manuscripts will cover the whole research process, from considerations of provenance, ethics, and access to the practicalities of on-site research, analysis, and publication. We want to encourage students and scholars to work with manuscripts and at the same time help them to be aware of the necessary skills, customary processes, legal guidelines, and ethical issues that the study of manuscripts entails.
We hope Working with Manuscripts will be a useful resource and would be happy to have input about what issues readers might want to see raised in the book.