Episode 13: Bridget Whearty on “Digital Codicology”

September 4, 2023 in Interviews, Manuscript Studies, Research Group Episodes for The Research Group Speaks, Research Group Speaks (The Series), Uncategorized

The Research Group Speaks
Episode 13

Decretum Gratiani plus sleeved Manicule, via gallica.bnf.fr from Bibliothèque municipale de Rouen. Ancien fonds, Ms E 1a, folio 195v.

Saturday 21 September 2023 online
12:00–1:30 pm EDT (GMT-4) by Zoom

“Making Digital Codicology:
Research and Writing in Community”

Bridget Whearty

[Posted on 4 September 2023, with updates]

We invite you to attend Episode 13 in our series.

The Eventbrite Portal for this Series:

To register for This Episode:

Bridget Whearty: Faculty Profile via https://www.binghamton.edu/english/faculty/profile.html?id=bwhearty.

Episode 13 showcases the work of Bridget Whearty, Associate Professor of English, General Literature and Rhetoric at Binghamton University, State University of New York (see her Curriculum Vitae).  She will speak informally about her work and research interests, focusing upon her recent book on Digital Codicology: Medieval Books and Modern Labor (Stanford University Press, 2022).  About the work, see, for example, her observations for the Coding Codices Podcast.

We learned about her work toward the book in an earlier stage, well before it appeared in print, in 2018, when we met as audience members at the 11th Annual Symposium of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies. It was inspiring to hear her then , and to have the opportunity to meet and talk more — as it happened, walking to the conference and in the parking lot as we were both preparing to leave. I found this meeting wonderfully memorable. Our subjects of discussion then included not only books, but also cats and cooking.

Fast forward.  As the RGME began its series of online Episodes in 2021, and their momentum came into place across the series, which now reaches Number 13, the suggestion that we invite Bridget came naturally.  Responding to the suggestion, I made the invitation, Bridget generously responded, we explored what she might like to focus on — and so, now, we welcome her gladly to our series.

We look forward to hearing more about Bridget’s quest, along with its challenges, discoveries, and recognition of the people behind the books in whichever ways they become known to us — by presenting themselves, in one and/or other ways, materially or by representatives, including digitally.

Come to think of it, that meeting of the people in (or of) the books is what we try to do with medieval and other books, only without being able to meet them in person . . .

Now is our chance with Bridget, and, through her, others who work behind the scenes in the study and presentation of books for our inspection, study, instruction, reflection, and questions.

You can register for this event by our RGME Eventbrite Collection. To register for Bridget’s Episode 13, visit this portal.  Information below.

Bridget Whearty and Johanna Green, 14 July 2023. Photograph Bridget Whearty.

The Plan for the Event, In Bridget’s Own Words

Writes Bridget:  “I’m really looking forward to this event. Particularly now, in the wake of Johanna Green‘s death, it feels important to tell the stories of the communities and events that bring books into existence — modern monographs as well as medieval manuscripts!”

See Johanna Green (1983–2023), her obituary, her publications, and Johanna’s and Bridget’s presentations and conversations for the 2020 Symposium of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies. Those presentations can be found in recordings here (Johanna’s talk starts at 36:50) and here.

Next, as we were preparing this webpost (the public announcement for her Episode) together, Bridget observed:

Your addition of Johanna to my public advert is incredibly thoughtful, and I’m tearing up, just looking at it. She was such a brilliant light, and I’m still so sad at the shape of the world without her in it, and (nerdily), I mourn that so many of her smart ideas were not (and will not) be published. I’m glad for the opportunity to be honest about how much of a powerhouse she was, and what an invaluable friend and resource, in the years I was working on this book.

So it happens that, while planned a while ago, now Bridget’s Episode might, among many other gifts, contribute to the process of honoring the treasure-house of “smart ideas” of Johanna’s which did not (or not yet) reach publication. Here, in our Episode, there might appear a contribution to the expression of such acknowledgements, in a setting dedicated not least to considering the power, poignance, and potential of taking people’s contributions to collaborative work overall, and as a whole, into account more specifically and explicitly.

The Title

“Making Digital Codicology:
Research and Writing in Community”


Academic monographs are oddly monumental — all the seams and mess and weirdness of writing are polished away (at least, as much as is ever possible).  A single author’s name holds court on the title page, as though they were solely responsible for the book’s existence.  But as manuscript scholars, we know very well that medieval texts are highly collaborative objects, crafted by a community of workers, and much of the most interesting work occurring today in manuscript studies focuses on recovering those workers’ contributions and stories.  The same is true of modern academic monographs, and a similar emphasis on seeing and valuing the real communal labor behind modern academic writing, I think, can and should become the norm.

In this conversation, I will tell some of the behind-the-scenes stories that shaped Digital Codicology: Medieval Books and Modern Labor, from the moments of outrage in casual conference conversations that catalyzed the project, to the Twitter-friendships that helped finalize the book proposal, to the writing groups that turned sprawling ideas into more tightly focused chapters.

I have at least three goals here:

1) to be honest about the at-times haphazard processes of writing and discovery through which a book comes into being,

2) to bring into view some of the many people involved in the production of Digital Codicology, and

3) to publicly attend to the value of these collaborations, which are so vital to the making of any book.

Front Cover for Digital Codicology (2023).

Note on the Image:

Digital Codicology (2023), Front Cover: Pages from a medieval manuscript (Standford University Libraries, Special Collections, MSS Codex MO379CB), plus an Anonymous Digitizer’s Hand (from Flickr / WOCinTech, under CC 2.0 license).

The manuscript, containing the Latin Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis, is a fifteenth-century Book of Hours from Ghent. The detail on the Cover for Digital Codicology comes from Digital Image 176 of 242 of the online facsimile for MSS Codex MO379CB, (in Public Domain), albeit in partly blurred view here. The facsimile is part of the digital Resources for Research and PedagogyAncient , Medieval, and Early Modern Manuscripts at Stanford.

On the Cover, these digitized (and digitally enhanced or manipulated) pages from a medieval book from Northern Europe, now housed on the West Coast of the United States, meets an anonymous gesturing or resting Hand transported from a (contemporary) photograph on the internet.

Food for Thought.  (Did we mention cooking?)

Our Episode with Bridget Whearty, author, scholar, teacher, friend, and colleague, will tell us more about such meetings and meeting-places, variously random, haphazard, serendipitous, and felicitous.


A Colophon of Sorts

« Le Champion des Dames » by Martin le Franc, « prevost de l’église de Lausane » (1440), via gallica.bnf.fr from Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des manuscrits. Français 12476, folio 78r, detail: Pointing Hand with Sleeve.

P.S. I wrote some of this — that is, the Supporting Parts, plus the Layout in webform, for Bridget’s Own Words and chosen Images, along with a couple more, with Bridget’s approval.

Those others are the gesturing Hands which draw attention to passages in texts in a couple of medieval manuscripts (above and to the right here).  They function as Manicles pointing the way for readers and viewers.  Although anonymous and dislocated, those Hands might have accessories, such as decorative sleeves or an elaborate holder, demonstrating a sense of style, as they emerge seemingly out of nowhere to find, show, and accent exactly the right place on their pages.

Perhaps they, too, make a statement in their own right simply by ‘showing up’ and being there, albeit or at least in the margins.

Signed (digitally):
Mildred Budny
WebEditor for the official RGME Website
Princeton, New Jersey
4 September 2023:  Labor Day in the U.S.A.

(All in a Day’s Work, as usual:  unpaid, unlauded, and usually unacknowledged; sometimes misappropriated.)

I.e.: Part of the large and expanding territory of worldwide Digital Manuscript Studies which Bridget’s work brings into the light.  We look forward to learning more.

Note on the Image

This image (in the Public Domain) comes from Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, MS Français 12476, illuminated in Arras. The fifteenth-century manuscript offers a copy of Le Champion des Dames (“The Champion of Women”), a poem of 1440–1442 by Martin le Franc (1410–1461), as “Provost of the Church of Lausanne“.  On this text see, for example, The Nine Muses in Martin le Franc’s “Le Champion des Dames”.

Dedicated to Philip the Good (1396–1467), the poem in 24,336 octosyllabic verses defends (and celebrates) virtuous women.


Registration for the Episode

Episode 13 in the online series of “The Research Group Speaks” is planned for Saturday, 23 September 2023, via Zoom, at 12 pm EDT (GMT – 4) for about 1 1/2 hours, with discussion and Q&A.  You are welcome to join us.

The Episode will be recorded, with a view to making it accessible more widely, with processing and permissions.

If you wish to attend, please register here:

Registration via the RGME Eventbrite Collection

Registration for this Episode

To register for Bridget’s Episode 13, visit this portal.

Registration is free.  Registration is open until the time that the Episode begins.

We offer the option for Registration with a Donation, which we welcome. Donations, which may be tax-deductible, help us to continue with our activities and sustain our mission for an organization principally powered by volunteers.

After registration, the Zoom link will be sent a few days before the event.

If you have questions or issues with the registration process, please contact [email protected].

We thank you who give an optional Donation.  We look forward to welcoming you.

Digital Codicology, Preface (Figure P.1). Digital Image of Henry Noel Humphreys, Specimens of Illuminated Manuscripts of the Middle Ages (London, 1853), Plate 7.

Future Episodes

Future Episodes are planned.  See:

Episode 14 online via Zoom on Sunday (not Saturday as usually) 19 November 2023

“Translation by Committee:  The Latin Heremetica

Episode 15 online via Zoom on Saturday 20 January 2024

“Women Writers from the Medieval to Post-Modern Periods (Recipes Included)”

Soon their own Registration Portals will open.

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Lisbon, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga: The mid 15th-century Saint Vincent Panels, attributed to Nuno Gonçalves. Image (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3a/Nuno_Gon%C3%A7alves._Paineis_de_S%C3%A3o_Vicente_de_Fora.jpg) via Creative Commons.