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Medieval Book Facsimile and Manuscript Studies Guide: Introduction


             Welcome to the Medieval Book Facsimile and Manuscript Studies Library Guide.  The items showcased in this guide are in Walsh Library’s Special Collections and Archives’ Leach Collection.  These facsimiles were generously donated to Fordham University by Dr. James Leach, M.D., who collected them over a number of years.  Dr. Leach gave them to Fordham, knowing of Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies and realizing how great a use these facsimiles could be to medieval students.

               The facsimiles of the Leach collection are of a stunning quality.  Many of them match the originals they mirror to such an extent that even minute flaws are matched, folio-by-folio and line-by-line.  Replicated illuminations even show where and to what degree the illuminated paint of the original has worn away over time, and reproduce with unparalleled accuracy what effects consistent reference and use in devotional practices had on the texts.  While most facsimiles in the collection use paper treated to mirror parchment in feel and appearance, some do use parchment, dyed to replicate the worn original.  The parchment grain and colouration of some facsimiles match to an almost eerie degree, as if the animals whose flesh that had been used in the production of the original books had been brought back to contribute their lives once again to the recording of human experiences and knowledge.  These facsimiles provide students at every level an invaluable opportunity to study texts and books that they otherwise might never be granted access to see, let alone handle.

                It is to this end that this research guide has been created.  This guide serves both as a means of showing researchers what the Leach collection has to offer and provides bibliographies and further reading lists to aid a student’s entry into the field of medieval manuscript studies.  The bibliographies provided in this guide are not intended to be comprehensive.  Rather, they serve as starting points for students to expand their own research.  Each section contains its own bibliography of sources speaking generally to the kind of texts and genres listed in that section, and links are provided to additional further reading lists which are also viewable in the "General Reference" tab.  Additionally, each facsimile listed also contains a link to its library catalogue entry.

                For the sake of usability, the facsimiles have been divided into sections defined by their contents and genre.  The facsimiles are then listed chronologically.  Information on the rough geographic region in which the original text was produced is also provided, using modern terms to facilitate quick reference.  Some texts, such as the Hebrew manuscript facsimiles, are listed separately according to their language and for the fact that they emulate texts of a different tradition and faith than the others listed, the vast majority of which are Latin Christian.  However, Hebrew facsimiles, in addition to having their own bibliographies, are also linked to the same further reading lists as the Christian manuscript facsimiles.

               Thank you very much for using this library guide.  A great debt of thanks is due to Dr. Leach, without whose generosity and keen sense for quality facsimile reproductions we would not be able to avail ourselves of this exceptional resource.   This guide owes a great deal to Dr. Susanne Hafner, Dr. Emanuel Fiano, and Dr. Sarit Kattan Gribetz for their contributions to the further reading lists and bibliographies and to Dr. Laura Morrale for her organizational assistance and suggestions for how to best address questions that inevitably arise from the academic use of physical facsimiles.

Questions to Consider

When approaching these facsimiles for academic study, it may be useful to keep in mind these questions:

  1. What role does the facsimile play in manuscript studies?  Should the facsimile be considered a part of a manuscript’s circulation and reception?
  2. What is the difference between studying a text with an accidental error or imperfection and studying a facsimile with an intentional and mirrored error or imperfection?  Is there a difference between the two at all?
  3. How should we approach the materiality of the physical facsimile?  Should facsimiles be considered reconstructive, reproductive, and/or representative of the texts they emulate?
  4. To what extent can a physical facsimile be used in lieu of the original book or text?  What are the limits of using a facsimile?

Guide Organizer and Researcher

Kevin Vogelaar

MA, Medieval Studies

Fordham University



Archives & Special Collections Librarian

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Gabriella DiMeglio
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