Call for Papers – 42nd Saint Louis Conference on Manuscript Studies

42nd Saint Louis Conference on Manuscript Studies, 16–17 October 2015

Vatican Film Library—Saint Louis University Libraries Special Collections
St. Louis, MO

The Vatican Film Library invites paper submissions or session proposals for the 42nd Saint Louis Conference on Manuscript Studies, to be held at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, MO, 16–17 October 2015. The conference is organized annually by the Vatican Film Library and its journal, Manuscripta, and is the longest running conference in North America devoted exclusively to medieval and Renaissance manuscript studies. The two-day program each year offers sessions on a variety of themes relating to medieval book production, distribution, reception, and transmission in such areas as paleography, codicology, illumination, textual transmission, library history, cataloguing, and more.

Guest Speaker for 2015:
Stella Panayotova (Keeper, Department of Manuscripts and Printed Books, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge)

Papers or session proposals should address the material aspects of late antique, medieval, or Renaissance manuscripts. Submissions may address an original topic or one of the session themes already proposed (see below). Papers are 20 minutes in length and a full session normally consists of three papers. If you are interested in organizing one of these sessions, or wish to suggest a paper or session of your own, please contact us as soon as possible.

Proposed Sessions

Submissions are welcome for any of the following sessions already proposed.

  • Old Book, New Book: Refurbished Manuscripts in the Middle Ages
    Even when they were tailored to the taste of specific patrons, it was understood that manuscripts would outlast their owners: they were future family heirlooms, to be circulated in networks of gift exchange, inheritance, and resale. In what ways did the patrons and producers of manuscripts anticipate the inevitable change of hands? Under what circumstances did new owners expand or alter legacy manuscripts, and how did they respond to the taste of previous owners? This session calls for papers that examine the social, political, and intellectual import of secondhand medieval books.
  • Gravity vs. Levity
    “Man is a rational, moral animal, capable of laughter.” (Notker Labeo, d. 1022). While this may be considered a truism by some, the question of the role played by humor in medieval manuscripts remains somewhat indistinct. Is a joke in a manuscript ever just a joke? Subversive, witty, parodic, didactic, and broadly entertaining imagery is the focus of this session.  What role did humor play in society and how is that displayed in a concrete fashion within the pages of books?
  • A Good Read: The Production of Vernacular Texts in Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-Century Italy and their Public
    While there is a great deal of documentary evidence for the production and readership of vernacular texts in Italy in the fifteenth century, we know relatively little about their thirteenth- and fourteenth-century patronage and the process of their production. Nonetheless, a considerable number of prose and verse manuscripts written in French, Franco-Italian, or Franco-Venetian survives, often resplendently illustrated and obviously produced for wealthy patrons. See the Fordham University website created to explore this topic. This panel seeks papers that consider the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century production and circulation of these manuscripts in Italy, discuss their patrons and readers; and examine the organization of their production by individuals or workshops based in urban, court, or private milieus. At this time university textbooks were being produced under university supervision for quality control; what evidence can we find for the regulation of quality in this manuscript genre?

Please send a title and an abstract of not more than 200 words to Susan L’Engle ( by 1 March 2015. Those whose proposals are accepted are reminded that registration fees and travel and accommodation expenses for the conference are the responsibility of speakers and/or their institutions.

For more information, contact Erica Lauriello, Library Associate for Special Collections Administration, at 314-977-3090 or Conference information is posted at

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