Working with Islamic Manuscripts, Oct 17

Thursday, October 17, 5:10pm–6pm

Centre for Medieval Studies, Lillian Massey Building, CMS room 301

Lecture by Karin Scheper (Conservator, Leiden Univ.), author of The Technique of Islamic Bookbinding: Methods, Materials, and Regional Varieties (2018)

“Working with Islamic Manuscripts from a Western perspective to a neutral stance, and a new vocabulary”

Response by Alberto Campagnolo (University of Udine and the Ligatus Project)

Reception to follow

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In the past two decades, quite a few studies on material aspects of manuscripts from the Islamic world have shed new light on these artefacts, and it is fair to say that these have changed our understanding of this manuscript culture, and it’s larger role in the development of bookmaking techniques. As a result, we must also see the western tradition in a different light and question our vocabulary when we talk, write and teach about these objects. The terminology that has become a standard tool to exchange our knowledge, and to describe characteristics in the finest detail, appears very much geared towards western books. This talk is about misunderstandings that may evolve from the lack of a proper terminology for diverse bookmaking traditions, and presents ongoing work to address this problem.

Karin Scheper heads the conservation workshop at the University Library Leiden. In her practical work and study she focusses on manuscripts from the Islamicat world, and received a PhD for her work on the Islamic bookbinding tradition in 2014. She is also an experienced teacher, welcomes interns and has given workshops for western conservation training programmes and institutions in the Islamic world.

CMS Eighth Annual Alumni Lecture: Helen Solterer, 24 October 2019

The Centre for Medieval Studies cordially invites you to a lecture by CMS alumna

Helen Solterer (CMS 1986), Professor of Romance Studies, Duke University  

“The Travail of Political Visionary Writing:  Christine de Pizan, Edith Thomas, and Other Humanists at Work”

Christine de Pizan, Book of Three Virtues. Boston, Public Library, MS f 101, fol. 3

Christine de Pizan, Book of Three Virtues. Boston, Public Library, MS f 101, fol. 3

24 October 2019, 4:10 p.m.

Centre for Medieval Studies, Room 301
Lillian Massey Building
125 Queen’s Park

Reception to follow


Medieval Ethiopia: A Second Colloquium (11-12 October)

"The Virgin and Child with the Archangels Gabriel and Michael". Late 15th/early 16th century. Tempera on parchment. Gospel manuscript from the monastery of Gunda Gunde (Tigray, Ethiopia). Image: DSU, UTSC Library. © M. Gervers, 2002.

“The Virgin and Child with the Archangels Gabriel and Michael”. Late 15th/early 16th century. Tempera on parchment. Gospel manuscript from the monastery of Gunda Gunde (Tigray, Ethiopia). Image: DSU, UTSC Library. © M. Gervers, 2002.

co-hosted by the University of Toronto’s Centre for Medieval Studies and the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Studies together with the Art Gallery of Ontario and with the support of the Italian Cultural Institute 


If you intend to attend the conference, please register on this website.


11 October 2019

9:00 am-9:15 am / CMS 310

Welcome by Suzanne Akbari (IAS / U of Toronto), including honored guests:

9:15-10:30 am / CMS 310

Session 1: Opening lecture by Michael Gervers (U of Toronto):

“The Enigma of Ethiopia’s Tablet-Woven Sanctuary Curtains”

10:30 am-11:00 am / CMS Great Hall

Coffee break

11:00 am-1:00 pm / CMS 310

Session 2Manuscript Culture:

Chair: Jill Caskey (U of Toronto)

Eyob Derillo (Curator of Ethiopian Collections, British Library), “Ethiopian Manuscripts: Curating, Exhibiting, and Digitising the British Library’s Collection”

Melissa Moreton (Hill Museum and Manuscript Library), “Nearing the Half-Century Mark: A Look Back at Ethiopian Manuscript Collections at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library”

Robert Holmstedt, “On Not Editing and Not Normalizing Ethiopic Texts (for the Sake of Gǝʿǝz Linguistics)” (U of Toronto)

1:00 pm-3:00 pm

Lunch break / travel to AGO

3:00 pm-5:00 pm / AGO Jackman Hall

Session 3: Roundtable discussion:

“Representing Ethiopia – and Representing Africa – in the Museums”

Welcome by Julian Cox (Art Gallery of Ontario)

Chair: Suzanne Akbari

Andrea Achi (Metropolitan Museum of Art); Michael Chagnon (Aga Khan Museum); Julie Crooks (Art Gallery of Ontario); Bryan Keene (Getty Museum); Silvia Forni (Royal Ontario Museum

5:00 pm-5:15 pm / adjoining Jackman Hall

Coffee break

5:15 pm-6:45 pm / AGO Jackman Hall

Session 4: Public lecture: Samantha Kelly (Rutgers U):

“Connected Histories: Ethiopia and the Global Middle Ages”


12 October 2019

9:30 am-10:00 am / Great Hall

Coffee and light breakfast

10:00 am-12 noon / CMS 310

Session 5Theological and Cartographic Contexts:

Chair: Isabelle Cochelin (Director, Centre for Medieval Studies, U of Toronto)

Marcia Kupfer (Washington, DC), “Sites of Anti-Judaism in Christian Cultures: A Comparative Study of the Medieval Latin and Ethiopian Orthodox Traditions”

Meron Gebreananaye, “Life of Krestos Semra” (Durham U)

Bryan Keene (Getty Museum), “Locating the Island of Socotra on Maps and in Manuscripts from Medieval Afro-Eurasia”

12 noon-1:15 pm / Great Hall

Lunch (buffet on site for presenters)

1:15 pm-2:30 pm / CMS 310

Session 6: Hagos Abrha Abay (St. Yared Center for Ethiopian Philology and Manuscripts Director, Mekelle U):

“Manuscript Collections of Kidana Mihret Wegrezhi”

2:30-3:00 pm / Great Hall

Introduced by: Tim Harrison (U of Toronto)

Coffee break

3:00-5:00 pm / CMS 310

Session 7: Material Culture:

Chair: Mark Meyerson (U of Toronto)

Verena Krebs (Bochum U), “Echoes of Exotic Others: Flemish Panel Paintings, Madre della Consolazione Icons, and Limoges Painted Enamels at the Late Medieval Ethiopian Royal Court”

Felege-Selam Solomon Yirga (Ohio State U / Dumbarton Oaks), “A New Provenance Study of the Aksumite Coins of the American Numismatic Society”

Sarah Guerin (U of Pennsylvania), “The African Ivory trade in the Longue Durée”

5:00 pm-6:30 pm / CMS 310

Session 8: Closing lecture: Alessandro Bausi (U of Hamburg):

“Ethiopia and the Christian Ecumene: Cultural Transmission, Translation, and Reception”

Introduced by Walid Saleh (U of Toronto)

Closing remarks and thanks: Suzanne Akbari (IAS / U Toronto)

6:30-8:00 / Great Hall



Congratulations to our recent PhD Candidates

Congratulations to our PhD students Bogdan Smarandache, Matthew Mattingly, and Morris B. Tichenor who defended their theses in September 2019:

Bogdan Smarandache: “Frankish-Muslim Diplomatic Relations and the Shared Minority Discourse in the Eastern Mediterranean, 517-692 AH/1123-1293 AD”

This dissertation examines the special link between Christian-Muslim diplomatic relations and the conditions of confessional minorities in the medieval Eastern Mediterranean. It begins with a preliminary analysis of the legal and ideological frameworks that guided Christian and Muslim rulers in their policies towards minorities. It then surveys how these rulers involved minorities in their negotiations, upholding or challenging these frameworks, from the earliest Christian-Muslim encounters in the first/seventh century to the Norman and Seljuk invasions of Sicily and Anatolia in the fourth/eleventh century. The dissertation then shifts focus towards the Frankish Coastal Plain (Arabic: al-Sāḥil; Old French: Outremer) and Islamic Greater Syria (Arabic: Bilād al-Shām; Latin: Majora Syria) from the First Crusade (488-492/1095-1099) to the conquest of the last Frankish stronghold of Acre by the Mamlūk sultan al-Ashraf Khalīl (689-693/1290-1293) in 690/1291. This dissertation offers a new analysis of Christian-Muslim relations that considers post-crusade developments in diplomatic practices as part of a continuum originating with relations between Byzantine emperors and Umayyad caliphs and their concerns over the welfare of minorities. It shows how rulers projected their authority by including minorities in their negotiations and how changes in the relations between rulers directly brought about the improvement or worsening of minority conditions throughout Mediterranean history. It also argues that the expressive (or symbolic) actions used to target minorities, or challenge the ability of rulers to protect them, were mutually intelligible across confessional divides. Thus, Frankish and Muslim rulers shared a common language of diplomacy that involved diplomatic conventions, such as gift-exchange, and they also shared a common conceptualization of authority tied to their treatment of minorities and their ability to protect minorities that evolved out of earlier discourses.

Matthew Mattingly: “Living Reliquaries: Monasticism and the cult of the saints in the Age of Louis the Pious”

At the genesis of this dissertation is the observation that numerous Carolingian monasteries of the ninth century were more than just enclaves for a spiritual elite following the Rule of St. Benedict but also functioned as popular religious shrines. These communities almost invariably identified with a patron saint particular to their institutions, whose bodily remains they protected and memorialized, and whose cults they actively promoted. This contrasts sharply with the early Merovingian period when monasteries and the shrines of the saints were mostly separate endeavors. My study aims to understand how and why this development came about, and what, if anything, the cult of the saints and their relics had to do with the monastic life and its ideals. It also serves to complicate the prevailing view that Carolingian monasteries were essentially “Benedictine” and functioned foremost as “powerhouses of prayer” for the aristocratic society that supported them.

A preliminary chapter provides historical context and introduces key themes by analyzing Queen Balthild’s decision, ca. 650, to organize the premier saints’ shrines of the Frankish realm as monasteries. The remaining chapters are then devoted to detailed case studies of the iii monastery-shrines of Saint-Wandrille, Saint-Denis, and Saint Gall, and are based on close readings of hagiographical works composed during the early decades of the ninth century in the midst of major institutional transformations. While scholars have previously focused on the adoption of the Rule of St. Benedict by these communities in the context of an imperially sponsored monastic reform, the changes are shown here to have been much more comprehensive, entailing large-scale building projects, artistic enhancements, liturgical renewal, and the production of new hagiographic literature. The larger aim, it is argued, was to create integrated complexes of sacred space, more worthy of the relics housed within, as the basis for Christian communities that comprised more than just their monks. The reformed monasteries themselves are represented, in effect, as living reliquaries, whose sacred duty was to protect, honor, and mediate the power of the relics entrusted to their care.

Morris B. Tichenor: “Cicero’s Incomplete Orator: The Transmission and Reception of the Mutilus Text”

This dissertation traces the tradition of Orator, Cicero’s late work on oratorical style, through the Middle Ages. During that time and due to mechanical losses, the text circulated in a reduced or mutilus form consisting of only the middle half and tail-end of the treatise. An early chapter (1) covers the tradition of the text as fragmentary quotations in other Classical and Late Antique authors. The core of my project, however, is a full codicological examination and catalogue (Appendix C) of the fifty-six surviving manuscript witnesses to this mutilus text. Proceeding from that research, I present the stemmatic relationships of the manuscripts, the geographic and chronological spread of the text, and the creation of two separate vulgate versions by early Italian humanists (Chapters 2 and 3). I present an edition of and commentary on a version of the text created by the early 15th c. schoolmaster Gasparino Barzizza, whose conjectures have long been praised by editors (Appendix A). I edit and classify the marginal and paratextual additions made by medieval readers to show how and why they read the text (Appendix B). Beyond the obvious contributions to textual criticism and the history of rhetoric, my dissertation demonstrates, through the lens of a single text, many of the various Ciceronianisms and Ciceros that existed in Latin intellectual history in the over millennium and a half following his death.