Sinead O’Sullivan

Organising Knowledge in the Early Medieval Book of Vergil 

Marginal and interlinear glosses, ubiquitous in manuscripts in the early medieval West, were an integral part of book culture and a prime mechanism for the circulation of knowledge – hence vital for our understanding of the reception of key authors and texts. In composing glosses, early medieval glossators collated and processed information of all kinds, keying the result to a lemma or tag-word in the text. Their practices followed well-established encyclopaedic techniques, namely those of compilation, excerption and recombination. Glosses provide insight into how knowledge was adapted and assimilated at specific times and in specific places. Far from static storehouses, they allow us to investigate what was valued, how knowledge was constructed, and the practices of knowledge production. The early medieval glossed book was an excellent knowledge system. Glosses enabled scholars to shape all kinds of material around an authoritative work. This talk will examine the collection and creation of knowledge in early medieval glossed Vergil manuscripts. It will focus on two manuscripts to uncover the encyclopaedic endeavors of early medieval glossators who gathered materials from the vast array of Vergilian commentaries, glosses and vitae, as well as the efforts of early medieval scribes to collect and organize all kinds of knowledge around the poet of antiquity.




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