French scholar to present lecture at New Canaan Library
Stephen Nichols, a medieval French scholar, declares there's more resemblance between ancient manuscripts on view in museums and their digital replications than meets the eye -- at least in the way the two versions of reading were produced.
"And when you think about it, the similarities make sense," he said. "Just as online technology represents a huge step forward in the way we read today, the evolution of those hand-wrought books played a major role in the development of the book in the middle ages."
Nichols is the James M. Beall Professor Emeritus at Johns Hopkins University, a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the French government's L'ordre des Arts et Lettres. In a presentation titled "From Parchment to Cyberspace," he will illustrate the ancient and modern methods by which these two versions of the manuscripts were created.
Using illustrations and descriptions from the 13th to the 15th centuries, he will explain how teams of scribes and artists in the Middle Ages -- working in writing workshops called scriptoria -- meticulously copied and illuminated the parchment leaves, often adorning them with lovely miniature paintings and decorations. Nichols will then show how digital architects, programmers and meta-daticians working in teams not unlike their medieval counterparts have painstakingly applied similar exacting methods to transfer the parchment manuscripts to cyberspace.
The result has brought these rare historical artifacts a much broader audience. While previously available only to a relatively few number of people at major libraries and museums, the painstakingly reproduced online manuscripts can now be viewed by anyone with a computer.
What's more, Nichols said, the possibilities this provides for closer study of the ancient manuscripts by medieval scholars have opened new vistas for teaching about the culture of the Middle Ages.