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The University of Rochester Libraries offer extraordinary resources for the study of the Middle Ages, including material in manuscript, print, microfilm, and electronic formats. Most of these resources can be found in the Rossell Hope Robbins Library,  a non-circulating library that contains comprehensive holdings in all aspects of Middle English Literature, as well as significant collections in Old English, Anglo-Norman, and medieval French literature; medieval history, philosophy, theology, and art; manuscript studies, witchcraft, and Arthurian studies. The present Medieval Studies guide is an attempt to provide researchers with an interdisciplinary overview of the resources available in the Robbins and other libraries at the University of Rochester. It covers a wide range of subjects, including literature, art, archaeology, theology, history, music, philosophy, and palaeography. Essentially, it aims to offer scholars the tools to start research in a particular topic, focusing on those collections that contain primary sources and comprehensive bibliographies. Moreover, a transnational overview is also complemented by subjects arranged in a regional or national fashion, so that collections of primary sources and biographies include categories like Byzantium, Great Britain & Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.


Concerning primary sources and artifacts, the Department of Rare Books & Special Collections  holds an interesting teaching collection of manuscript material from the Middle Ages: books, single manuscript leaves, and a small gathering of legal documents, including a papal bull from the twelfth century. Of very special interest is a parchment roll containing the inventory of the library at the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Victor at Marseille (1374). The transcription of this manuscript is available online, as well as a fascinating background article from the University of Rochester Library Bulletin. For a list of manuscripts held at the University of Rochester libraries see Seymour de Ricci's Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada. 4 vols. (New York, 1935-1940): II, 1868-1876. 


Additionally, the Department of Rare Books contains a collection of approximately 100 titles printed before 1501 (Incunabulum/incunabula: incunable/s), which will be of interest to those scholars who wish to examine the impact of manuscript culture during the first decades of printing. More importantly, many of these incunables are central witnesses of the transmission of a particular text from antiquity and the Middle Ages through the early period of early modern Europe. Below is a brief selection of titles held at the Department of Rare Books—to learn more about these books click on their respective images.


Firminus de Bellavalle. Opusculum repertorii prognosticon in mutationes aeris. Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 1485.

Firminus de Bellavalle (fl. 1338-45). Opusculum repertorii prognosticon in mutationes aeris. Add: Pseudo-Hippocrates: Libellus de medicorum astrologia (Tr. Petrus de Abano). Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, [before 4 Nov.] 1485.

Our copy is bound in contemporary vellum. On the first page, which is blank, there is a handwritten astrological diagram. The names "Sherman Clarck" and "Jean Vance Clarke" are inscribed on the back of that same leaf. Jean Vance Clarke was the donor of the book as indicated by the bookplate on the front endpaper. It is remarkable that this volume was bound with extra blank leaves, 5 in the front and 21 in the back.


Albumasar. Introductorium in astronomiam. Tr. Hermannus Dalmata. Augsburg: Erhard Ratdolt, 7 Feb. 1489.

Albumasar (787-886). Introductorium in astronomiam. Tr. Hermannus Dalmata. Augsburg: Erhard Ratdolt, 7 Feb. 1489.

The pastedowns and endpapers of this copy contain manuscript annotations. There are also notes on the title page, and copious marking and marginalia in book 1. This book was bequeathed as part of The Harkness Scientific Library by Rear Admiral William Harkness, M. D. , LL. D, Professor of Mathematics USN, Class of 1858, and founding member of the Cosmos Club.

Around the year 1000 large portions of the Great Introduction were translated into Greek, and the entire treatise was translated into Latin by Johannes Hispalensis in 1133 and, with some abridgements, by Hermannus Dalmata in 1140.


Marcus Terentius Varro. De lingua latina (ed. Julius Pomponius Laetus). Rome: Georgius Lauer, c. 1471-2.

Marcus Terentius Varro (116-27 B. C.). De Lingua Latina (ed. Julius Pomponius Laetus). [Rome: Georgius Lauer, c. 1471-2]. This Roman edition is the editio princeps of De lingua latina and the first work of Varro to be printed. Unfortunately, our copy is missing the first ten leaves, which included a letter addresed to Bartholomaeus Platina, a summary of the De lingua latina, and a mention to Laetus' editorial work on the text. De lingua latina originally consisted of 25 books, six of which (5-10) are extant with considerable lacunae—only books 5 and 6 have survived entirely. The manuscript tradition of this surviving portion comes from an archetype, Florence, Laur. 51. 10 (F), written in a Beneventan hand (south Italian minuscule) at the Benedictine monastery of Montecassino in the last decades of the eleventh century.



An Essay by Holbrook Jackson with an Original Leaf from the Chronicles of England by William Caxton

William Caxton (1415x24-1492). An Essay by Holbrook Jackson with an Original Leaf from the Chronicles of England, printed by William Caxton at Westminster in 1480. London: William H. Robinson Limited, Pall Mall, 1933.

In the first edition of The Chronicles of England Caxton materialized an important typographical change designed to include larger portions of text in each sheet of paper. He first employed what scholars designate as "type 4", a reduced version of a previous "type 2", which, in turn, is a free interpretation of several Flemish hands of that period.


Werner Rolewinck. Fasciculus Temporum. Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 24 Nov. 1480.

Werner Rolewinck (1425-1502). Fasciculus Temporum. Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 24 Nov. 1480.

The Fasciculus Temporum is a compendium of both ecclesiastical and secular world history, beginning with the biblical account of the genesis up to more recent events such as the invention of printing. The author of this chronicle, Werner Rolewinck, was born in Westphalia in 1425 and educated in Cologne where he entered the Carthusian cloister of St. Barbara in 1447. First printed in Cologne in 1474, the Fasciculus Temporum would become immensely popular in the next three decades. In fact, we know of at least 33 incunable editions, and the text continued to be printed in the following century. For this 1480 edition the German printer Erhard Ratdolt decided to insert a woodcut map of the T-O type, a vestige of the medieval cartographic tradition.


As expected, the content of this guide heavily relies on the work of previous printed and electronic guides. Medievalists will easily detect the legacy of R. C. van Caenegen's Guide to the Sources of Medieval History (Amsterdam, 1978), as well as the influence of other electronic guides, particularly those hosted by the libraries at The University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


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