In March, Professor Steven Livesey learned that his application for a Fulbright Research Fellowship was approved. His project investigates the composition and medieval development of the library of the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Bertin, which was founded in the mid-seventh century and by the twelfth century had grown to be the fourth-largest library in France. Today the books are dispersed among several French municipal libraries and other collections throughout Europe. The reconstructed library will include a physical description of surviving manuscripts as well as a more complete inventory of the texts contained in the codices. Beyond a better understanding of the library itself and its books, the project contributes to an assessment of the place of monasteries – often seen as outmoded and foreign to the new world of the late-medieval university – within the intellectual culture of the late middle ages. Rather than asking merely about the content of the library, the project will investigate how the library was equipped and organized to meet the needs of its readers, how this changed over time, and how the materials within libraries were developed to address a changing population within the medieval world, including the world of the university scholar. Seen from this perspective, the Saint-Bertin library, like libraries today, is a microcosm of its world, for an assessment of how medieval readers processed and retrieved information was as much a part of their world as it is ours.
This is an international collaborative investigation, in which Professor Livesey will partner with a project based in France under the Biblissima program, with cooperation of the Institut de recherche et d’histoire des textes (Paris) [IRHT], the Bibliothèque d’Agglomération de Saint-Omer [BASO], and the Bibliothèque municipale de Boulogne-sur-Mer. The results will be published in an open-access format and include digital reproductions of the Saint-Bertin manuscripts as well as metadata in TEI format covering paleography, codicology, provenance, and digital copies of historic catalogues of the collection.
The University of Oklahoma, 660 Parrington Oval, Norman, OK 73019-0390 (405) 325-0311.