Thursday, 1 December 2016

Susan Whitfield Lecture: “Beyond Scrolls and Codices: Manuscript Formats on the Eastern Silk Road”

This Mellon Sawyer seminar is an interdisciplinary collaboration dedicated to mapping cultural exchanges across Eurasia from roughly 400-1450 CE, by focusing on the development, distribution and sharing of manuscript technologies.

Schedule of Public Lectures

Mellon Sawyer lectures are open to the public and will take place on the University of Iowa campus, Iowa City. Note that UCC refers to University Capitol Center and IMU refers to the Iowa Memorial Union.

Friday 2 December 2016 – 8:30am-4:45pm / 166 IMU Iowa Theater (Iowa Memorial Union)
William Johnson
Classical Studies, Duke University
“From Bookroll to Codex”
This talk will, first, offer an overview of the literary bookroll in ancient Greece and Rome, with deep dives into how technical details of form interact with production (writers, scribes) and consumption (readers, society). That overview will be foundational for the second part of the lecture, in which we will turn to the much discussed issue of the transition from bookroll to codex. There too an overview will be offered— with, however, a focus not so much on the question of “why?” but on what this transition might  say about instability and changes in the larger cultural matrix, and, more specifically, how this shift in the idea of the book might relate to changing attitudes towards authorship and writing practices on the one hand, and use and reading practices on the other.

Susan Whitfield
Director, International Dunhuang Project, British Library
“Beyond Scrolls and Codices: Manuscript Formats on the Eastern Silk Road”
Manuscripts in the tens of thousand have been excavated from first millennium AD sites of the eastern Silk Road. On various local media — birchbark, wood, palm leaf, silk, paper and others — and in over twenty languages and scripts, they reflect the diversity of the cultures in this period and place. This paper introduces the range of manuscript formats, materials, languages and scripts, and discuss their diffusion along the Silk Road. It also considers the lack of diffusion of some unique formats used in specific contexts and only found for relatively brief periods.

Marina Rustow
Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East, Princeton University
“Fatimid State Documents, Serial Recyclers and the Cairo Geniza”Among the many unexpected finds the Cairo Geniza has yielded are hundreds—possibly thousands—of medieval documents of state in Arabic script. Among these are decrees, rescripts, petitions, tax receipts and fiscal accounts from period of the Fatimid caliphs in Egypt and Syria (969–1171). Most of these Fatimid state documents were reused for Hebrew-script texts, hence their survival in the discarded manuscript chamber of a medieval Egyptian synagogue. In most cases, we can only speculate on the path they took from the government offices where they were produced to the synagogue where they were preserved. Nonetheless—and perhaps paradoxically given that they did not survive in an archive—they offer glimpses of the complexity and sophistication of medieval Middle Eastern techniques of archiving and deacquisition, as well as informal scribal habits in one of the largest and best documented Jewish communities of the Middle Ages.

Myriam Krutzsch
Aegyptisches Museum, Berlin
“Papyrus as an Ancient Writing Material: Its Structure, Production and Classification”
This lecture touches on the history of  ancient Egyptian papyrus, its production and use as a writing material. The structure of the papyrus sheet is explained, from the source materials [fibers, leaf shapes] to the making the papyrus roll. Special emphasis is focused on the diverse typology and classification of sheet joins, the places where individual papyrus sheets are connected to form a roll or scroll. Knowledge of these typologies not only gives us insight into ancient production technologies, but also can be used as a valuable tool for determining previously uncertain provenance and dating.

Mark Barnard
Senior Conservator Emeritus, British Library
“The Dunhuang Diamond Sutra of AD 868: A Conservation Approach That Goes Back to the Original”The Diamond Sutra of AD 868 is the world’s earliest dated printed ‘book’. This paper scroll was one of 6,000 items that came from Dunhuang’s cave 17 during Marc Aurel Stein’s 2nd expedition of 1911 to Western China. Brought back to the British Museum, London in 1914 its importance was soon recognized as it was put on display in 1914 along with other treasures from Dunhuang. From early images, its condition looked poor, with heavy staining and paper loss. It had also been repaired in antiquity. We believe that it had been restored up to three times before by 1972 when it was transferred to the New British Library. This presentation will chart a 20-year conservation project that involved ground-breaking research and a fundamental reassessment of traditional East Asian scroll mounting, and developed a new approach to the conversation about and preservation of the Dunhuang archive.

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