Secular and Scientific Manuscripts

Current Faculty: Melissa Conway & Cynthia White

Description: While biblical, liturgical, and devotional manuscripts survive in the greatest number, religious texts tell only one part of the vibrant intellectual history of the Middle Ages in Europe. This course will focus upon on the varieties of secular and scientific manuscripts, among which are bestiaries and natural histories, herbals and agricultural manuals, medical, astronomical, and mathematical texts. Usually illustrated and often lavishly illuminated, these manuscripts formed the minds of the Middle Ages for several centuries, and their pervasive influence can be seen in great works of art and literature (e.g., Dante’s Divine Comedy). Using a combination of the resources in UCLA’s Special Collections, online sources, and field trips to the Huntington and/or the Getty Museum to see pre-1600 manuscripts, this course will provide an overview of this important, but too-often overlooked, aspect of the history, production, distribution, and survival of secular and scientific manuscripts. By the end of the class students will be familiar with the more important examples in each genre, their role in the history of science and technology, and the range of resources for continuing a deeper study and appreciation of the field. The class will culminate with the each student’s presentation on a noted secular manuscript.

Years Taught: 2017