2014 Anniversary Reflections

August 17, 2014 in Anniversary, Bembino, Events, Favorites, International Congress on Medieval Studies, Photographic Exhibition

Detail of decorated initials and script, with focus upon 'Ecce . . . Bene', with photography by Mildred Budny

‘Ecce . . . Bene’. Photography © Mildred Budny

Who, What, Where, When, Why Not

[Published on 17 August 2014, with updates]

The Mission, History, People, and Activities of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence are reported on the Pages and Posts of our website and other Publications.  During this landmark anniversary year, celebrating 15 years as a nonprofit educational corporation and 25 as an international scholarly society, we pause to reflect upon the course and nature of our essence and abilities as a collective entity.  And we give thanks.  Couldn’t do it alone!  Come with us to see how that works, and plays!

Who, When, and Wherever

The Research Group on Manuscript Evidence is an unusual scholarly entity — a sort of university without walls, open to the academic and wider worlds.  With “no fixed abode” (apart from our central office, itself a donation), we hold events in different venues, either formally allocated as part of regularly scheduled conferences or generously donated for the purpose by various institutions.

Poster for 2014 Symposium at Princeton University on 'Recollections of the Past', with images courtesy of Adelaide Bennett. Poster laid out in RGME Bembino.Poster 1 for "Identity & Authenticity" Symposium (22-23 March 2013)Among them, in recent years, are our Sponsored Sessions and Co-Sponsored Sessions, plus an Anniversary Reception this year, at the annual International Congress on Medieval Studies, and a series of Symposia at Princeton University on “Identity & Authenticity” Symposium 2013 (2013) and “Recollections of the Past” (2014).   We plan further activities for this anniversary year.

As an official nonprofit educational organization, with sustained activities, outreach, and publications, we however have no building, no paid staff, no elaborate structure or infrastructure, no sustained funding, and little endowment.  After strenuous fundraising over years, while still advancing with our activities above all, our endowment has at last reached the level of $400.

Why?  Why Not!

So why have we survived?  Good question.  Without an elaborate hierarchy, without much money, and yet with the aid of volunteers from many spheres of activities, we have an exceptional flexibility which can respond rapidly to changing conditions, challenges, and opportunities.  When, for example during one recession or other, many organizations chose to fold or to restrict their operations, we chose to focus instead on our strengths — namely people, dedication, and generosity — so that we can welcome the contributions of many kinds, including funds, expertise, materials, and goodwill.  We gladly observe that “Where There is Goodwill, There is a Way.”

And so, with a slender budget but with generous contributions in kind, we advance our mission, with scholarly conference sessions, symposia, workshops, colloquia, masterclasses, exhibitions, research projects, and publications.  The nourishing donated Food for Thought often inspires donations to cover the provision of refreshments in the forms of Coffee Breaks, Receptions, Parties, Buffet Suppers, and even, on occasion, a Symposium Banquet.

"Bembino" Booklet CoverRecent developments include

  • the improvements to our website (itself a donation) in the process of upgrade and redesign this year, enabling, for example, images and other media,
  • the upgrades for our multilingual digital font Bembino (now in Version 1.2, freely available for educational and commercial use alike), in which this website and other Publications now regularly appear, and
  • the Newsletter which we prepare to launch later this year.

The e-Newsletter — the RGME-email, shall we say — is inspired, in part, by our illustrated printed Bulletin ShelfLife (ISSN 1528-7971), which is available by subscription or donation here.  We decided to create this new informative, low-maintenance publication in e-format as part of our anniversary celebrations of 2014.  The Newsletter will be available without charge to our Officers, Associates, Advisers, Volunteers,  Participants, and others.

2014 Masthead for the RGME-newsletter 'ShelfMarks'


The donations provide, for example, funds, materials, and expertise partly to cover the running costs and other requirements for the organization and many aspects of our program activities.  They enable access to original materials (manuscripts, books, archives, and more) for research and photography, the permission to reproduce images in print and/or digital forms, and expertise in scholarly, organizational, editorial, and many other areas which make up our mission to examine the evidence of manuscript and other written materials, and their many contexts, in the transmission across time and place, from language to language, from culture to culture, and from generation to generation.

What Indeed, With More to Come

The Research Group is dedicated to the study of manuscript materials, including scripts, texts, decoration, illustrations, diagrams, maps, musical notations, and more.  You name it.  Anything produced by hand in the creation of evidence that records human experience, aspirations, knowledge, research, and discoveries, across a long range of time and space.  When we first organized as an entity, because of the focus of our chosen research project, we concentrated upon the period of production and transmission of manuscripts, in various languages, to and through England and English (or Old and Middle English) in the Middle Ages and beyond.  Some of the process and the fruits of that concentration are recorded here:

In moving our principal base to the United States, our focus extended more broadly to embrace the written word in many forms, languages included.  The unfolding story is recorded for our

Along the way, we decided to establish our organization more formally as a nonprofit educational corporation, which guided the shape and structure of our events and activities, leading to this anniversary year and beyond.  During this year, responding to requests, we recognize that, while considering manuscripts as a central source, the Research Group also considers other materials, so that, while we retain our “brand name”, our scope in practice may extend to “Manuscripts and Other Evidence”.

Poster for "Medieval Writing Materials" Congress Session (7 May 2014)*****

Please watch this space for further developments, including the publication of our Newsletter later this year.


P.S. You can now find this publication here:

  • Shelfmarks, with information about how to subscribe and to join our activities.

More Updates:

An Anniversary Party was generously hosted for us in Princeton in March.

The Research Group on Manuscript Evidence sponsored and co-sponsored 5 Sessions at the 2014 International Congress on Medieval Studies in May.  We sponsored 2 Sessions of our own. We co-sponsored 1 Session with the Societas Magica (as customary), as well as 2 Sessions with the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Florida (for the first time).

Also at the Congress, with the Societas Magica, we co-sponsored an Anniversary Reception.

Poster for 2014 Symposium at Princeton University on 'Recollections of the Past', with images courtesy of Adelaide Bennett. Poster laid out in RGME Bembino.In May, we held a Symposium on Recollections of the Past at Princeton University.

Four postgraduate students and their Professor celebrate the successful accomplishment of the "Recollections of the Past" Symposium, at which 3 of these students and their Professor presented papers. Photography © Mildred Budny

During the year, there appeared the preliminary version of our redesigned website (You are Here), which stands in parallel to our first website (available via http://manuscriptevidence.org/data/ during the transitional period).  Through the year, we continued with the process of this upgrade, which made it possible to include the publication of images, Program Posters and Booklets, and other materials from our history and our on-going activities.  The new site displays our multilingual digital font Bembino, in which our Publications now appear.

We issued an upgrade of the multilingual digital font Bembino, available for FREE here.

We held a Colloquium on When the Dust Has Settled at Princeton University in November.

Continuing our anniversary activities, we held a Seminar on Manuscripts & Their Photographs at the Index of Christian Art in December.

Initial P of Prayer in Book of Hours, with Photography © Mildred Budny

Photography © Mildred Budny

Rounding out the anniversary year, the Princeton Trustees of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence issued the 2014 Appeal Letter. The letter is accompanied by a convenient Donation Form, encouraging contributions in funds and/or in kind, as you might wish. Easy methods for donation are also described on this site here.

Then we began to prepare our activities for 2015, as reported in our News.