The course aims to offer basic historical knowledge on (mainly, but non exclusively, Greek and Latin) handwritten books from classical Antiquity to the late Middle Ages and the introduction of the printing press, with constant attention to their contexts of production, circulation, conservation and to the changes occurred in relation to historical circumstances. The manuscript book will be considered as a subject of interest in its own right, but also as an essential source for other historical studies (philology, art history, history of religion, history of literature, science, philosophy ...). The course also wishes to sensitize students to the adoption of best practices for the description and preventive conservation of manuscript books.
Teaching will provide:
a) knowledge on book materials and manufacturing techniques (with specific attention to their chronological and – whenever possible – to their geographical evolution);
b) basic knowledge on book typologies, and on cultural and social contexts of book production, circulation, conservation.
The following topics will be addressed: scope and purpose of the history of the handwritten book and its interactions with other disciplines; current research trends and main working tools; origins and diffusion of writing and the book in ancient societies; actors, circuits and modes of production, use and conservation of manuscript books in East and West between antiquity and the end of the Middle Ages; materials and tools used for writing and decorating; the manufacture of the book and the shaping of page layout; the structure of the handwritten book and its relationship to contents; the principles and criteria for the construction and ‘exploitment’ of the page; the scribe and his strategies; bookbinding; main text and book typologies; problems, models and standards of manuscript description; technical terminology.