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‘The Materiality of Medieval Manuscripts’: watch Professor Henrike Lähnemann’s inaugural lecture online now

Monday, 22 February 2016

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An illustration from the Medingen Psalter, of hands holding quills
An illustration from the Medingen Psalter, of hands holding quills entwined with the down stroke of the p in 'opera manuum eius'

Professor Henrike Lähnemann filled the lecture theatre at the Taylor Institution for her very well-received inaugural lecture on 21 January, and it is no exaggeration to say that there was standing room only! We are pleased to announce that the lecture is now available online, via the University’s podcasting site.

Henrike processed in with Oxford Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sally Mapstone, and followed by Bodley’s Librarian, Richard Ovenden, carrying a medieval Psalter from the Cistercian abbey of Medingen, which would be the main focus of her lecture. The current Abbess of Medingen, Dr Kristin Püttmann, also joined the procession.

The Psalter is a small but fascinating book, written mostly around 1500 and later reworked, and Henrike expertly guided us through its history as she spoke on ‘The Materiality of Medieval Manuscripts.’ At times humorous, always erudite but brilliantly accessible, her lecture told the story of the manuscript from its original creation and revisions in the Abbey to its long journey through time and across the Atlantic before it reached its new home in the Bodleian.

Henrike discussed the illustrations and marginalia, particularly some of the interesting drawings intertwined with letters (including the hands holding quills on the downward stroke of ‘p’ in ‘opera’ – see the illustration above). She made a convincing case for her hypothesis that the Medingen nuns emphasised the material side of their text production to embody their devotion, precisely because of the new significance manuscripts acquired as the art of printing developed.

Also now available online is a round table discussion held in conjunction with Henrike’s inaugural lecture, on ‘The Future of German Studies’, which took place on 22 January.

Although this was Henrike’s official inaugural lecture, she has now been a Fellow of St Edmund Hall since autumn 2014 and the University’s Professor of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics since January 2015, joining us from Newcastle University. She has become an enthusiastic member of the College community, taking an active interest in all aspects of Teddy Hall life, including singing in the Chapel Choir.