Book Series Publications of the Journal of Medieval Latin, vol. 16

Crafting Knowledge in the Early Medieval Book

Practices of Collecting and Concealing in the Latin West

Sinéad O'Sullivan, Ciaran Arthur (eds)

  • Pages: 524 p.
  • Size:178 x 254 mm
  • Illustrations:7 b/w, 19 col., 22 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2023

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-60247-9
  • Paperback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-60248-6
  • E-book
  • Available
  • Contains contributions in Open Access

This book spotlights the currency of two crucial practices in early medieval book culture in the Latin West: collection and concealment.


Sinéad O’Sullivan is Reader in Medieval History at Queen’s University, Belfast. She is editor of Glossae aeui Carolini in libros I-II Martiani Capellae “De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii,” Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaevalis, vol. 237 (Turnhout, 2010). She has co-edited a volume with Mariken Teeuwen titled Carolingian Scholarship and Martianus Capella: Ninth-Century Commentary Traditions on ‘De nuptiis’ in Context (Turnhout, 2011).

Ciaran Arthur is a Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Classics, University of Galway. He is currently preparing a monograph on language and the Biblical heritage in Early Medieval Insular thought.


Collection and concealment were hallmarks of early medieval book culture. Materials of all kinds were collected, collated, concealed, condensed, correlated, paraphrased, reorganised, and repurposed in early medieval manuscripts. This volume of essays explores how knowledge was made in the early medieval book in the Latin West through two interrelated practices: collecting and concealing. It provides case studies across cultures and areas (e.g. exegesis, glossography, history, lexicography, literature, poetry, vernacular and Latin learning). Collectio underpinned scholarly productions from miscellanies to vademecums. It was at the heart of major enterprises such as the creation of commentaries, encyclopaedic compendia, glosses, glossaries, glossae collectae, and word lists. As a scholarly practice, collectio accords with the construction of inventories of inherited materials, the ruminative imperative of early medieval exegesis, and a kind of reading that required concentration. Concealment likewise played a key role in early medieval book culture. Obscuration was in line with well-known interpretative practices aimed at rendering knowledge less than immediate. This volume explores the practices of obscuring that predate the twelfth-century predilection, long recognised by historians, for reading that penetrates beneath the “covering” (integumentum, involucrum) to reveal the hidden truth. Cumulatively, the papers spotlight the currency of two crucial practices in early medieval book culture -  the practices of collection and concealment. They demonstrate that early medieval authors, artists, compilers, commentators, and scribes were conspicuous collectors and concealers of knowledge.


Sinéad O’Sullivan, Collecting and Concealing in the Field of the World
Anna A. Grotans,  Understanding the Scope of Knowledge in Early Medieval St Gall
Mariken Teeuwen, The Intertwining of Ancient and Late-Antique Authorities in the Margins of Carolingian Manuscripts
Michael W. Herren, Philology and Mercury after the Wedding: Truth and Fiction in Three Didactic Works
David Ganz, Latin Shorthand and Latin Learning 
Franck Cinato, Critical Cumulation? How Glossaries were Constituted in the Early Middle Ages (6th-8th Centuries) 
Patrizia Lendinara, Unveiling the Sources of the Glosses to the Third Book of the Bella Parisiacae Urbis by Abbo of Saint-Germain-des-Prés 
Rosalind C. Love, “But what Polybius the Greek Physician Says is More Correct”: Sources of Knowledge in the Glosses to Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy at Tenth-Century Canterbury 
Kees Dekker, Collecting Encyclopaedic Knowledge in the Vocabularius Sancti Galli 
Evina Stein, Early Medieval Catechetic Collections Containing Material from the Etymologiae and the Place of Isidore of Seville in Carolingian Correctio
John J. Contreni, Hic continentur ista: Collecting and Concealing in an Early Ninth-Century Instruction-Reader (Laon, Bibliothèque Municipale “Suzanne Martinet,” MS 265)
Ildar Garipzanov, Graphic Ciphers and the Early Medieval Practices of Collectio and Concealment
Andy Orchard, Building a Splendid Library: The Background and Context of the Bibliotheca magnifica
Michael James Clarke, Medieval Scholarship and Intertextuality: A Case Study of Saxo Grammaticus on the Giants
Ciaran Arthur, Harvesting Wisdom from Books and the Beauty of the Unknown
Index of Manuscripts
General Index