Scientific and Secular Manuscripts

Current Faculty: Melissa Conway & Cynthia White


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 the varieties of scientific and secular manuscripts, among which are medical, astronomical, and mathematical texts; bestiaries and natural histories; herbals and agricultural manuals; itineraries, chronicles, romances, and collections of poetry. Frequently illustrated and often lavishly illuminated, these manuscripts formed the minds of the Middle Ages for several centuries. \This course will provide an overview of these too-often overlooked aspects of the history, production, distribution, and survival of scientific and secular manuscripts. By the end of the class students will be familiar with important examples in each genre, and the range of resources for continuing their deeper study and appreciation of the field.  Using a combination of online sources and virtual field trips, our class will visit  the Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts Collection and the Biomedical Library Rare Book Room in UCLA’s Special Collections; the Hoose Library of Philosophy Collections, University of Southern California; the Department of Manuscripts at the Getty Museum: Special Collections at the Getty Research Institute; the Cornell University Library; and the Lawrence J. Schoenberg Manuscript Collection at the University of Pennsylvania. The class will culminate with student presentations on one of the manuscripts in the UCLA collection.

Scientific & Secular Manuscripts Syllabus – 2021

Years Taught: 2017, 2019, 2021