Insular Manuscripts AD 650-850: Networks of Knowledge

Leverhulme Trust International Network (2016-2019): IN–2016–029

The Insular Manuscripts project establishes an international research network to advance understanding of knowledge exchange in early medieval Europe through analysis of Insular Manuscripts.

Royal detail
Initial (detail, IN) from the 'Royal Prayerbook' [Royal 2 A XX, fol. 17r], Mercia, c. 900-925, held in the British Library
In the period between c. AD650 and c. AD850 manuscripts made in Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England, and in monasteries on the Continent founded by English or Irish missionaries, used ‘Insular’ styles of script, decoration, and methods of making that are distinctive and diagnostic.

There are about 500 extant Insular manuscripts, of which 75% are in libraries on the European continent (including 42% in Germany, 9% in France), a further 24% are in Ireland or the UK, and 3% are in Russia or the USA. Among those in European libraries are books that were written in England or Ireland and exported not long after they were made, as well as books that were copied on the Continent in Insular style.

Some individual books are very well known and have been studied in great detail, often as extraordinary treasures; but there is no synthetic or detailed analysis of what these books reveal en masse about networks of knowledge, movement of people, ideas and technology in the post-Roman West. As a group these manuscripts reveal the deep and extensive contribution of the islands of Britain and Ireland to medieval European culture.

This project enables a step-change in scholarship on cultural networks in medieval Europe by facilitating research with academics, curators, and digital specialists, exploring how new research tools (print and digital) can help us challenge assumptions, map our data, and change the way that investigate our material. It aims to develop a new research agenda by bringing together scholars of early medieval history and manuscript studies, with practitioners expert in network analysis and digital technologies, as well as collection curators. The project collaborates closely with a major forthcoming British Library exhibition on Anglo-Saxon England (2018).

Text image: London, British Library, Royal 2 A XX, fol. 17r (details and copyright)

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Prof. Joanna Story, Principal Investigator

Dr Pragya Vohra, Network Facilitator

insularmss@le.ac.uk

AHRC PhD Studentship at the British Library

Franco-Saxon manuscripts in the ninth century

The competition for an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Programme studentship at the British Library has now closed.
Supervisors: Prof. Jo Story (UoL) and Dr Kathleen Doyle (BL)

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