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Cultural Values and the International Trade in Medieval European Manuscripts, c. 1900-1945

Description

CULTIVATE MSS aims to assess the significance of the trade in medieval manuscripts for the development of ideas about the nature and value of European culture in the early 20th century, a crucial period for the development of modern European nation states. Although recent technological developments have facilitated quantitative analyses of provenance data, charting in increasing detail the early-20th-century movement of manuscripts, including an exodus of works to America, qualitative analyses have failed to keep pace, leaving questions of how and why particular books were valued underexplored. The PI’s role in the development of the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts, which has begun to make available historic data about books, has revealed the need for a reassessment of the relationship between collecting and scholarship, and the potential for existing data about the manuscript trade to be used, with unpublished archival sources, to identify and compare the economic and philosophical values projected onto books. Thus the project uses the PI’s expertise to develop a multi-disciplinary approach to assess the roles of collectors, scholars and dealers in the formation of collections of medieval manuscripts, and the impact of this on scholarship, comparing the English-speaking world, France and Germany. It will analyse published and unpublished accounts of manuscripts, together with price data, to reconstruct values projected onto books. It will seek to contextualise these values within the history of the early 20th century, assessing the impact of two world wars and other political and economic shifts on the trade in books and attitudes to manuscripts as objects of national significance. The Middle Ages are often identified with the emergence of European cultural identities, thus a reappraisal of the historiography of the study of medieval manuscripts has the potential to impact research about attitudes to European culture and identity in a wide range of disciplines.

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