Designing English: Early Literature on the Page
Early manuscripts in the English language include religious works, plays, romances, poetry and songs, as well as charms, notebooks, science and medieval medicine. How did scribes choose to arrange the words and images on the page in each manuscript? How did they preserve, clarify and illustrate writing in English? What visual guides were given to early readers of English in how to understand or use their books?
Designing English is an overview of eight centuries of graphic design in manuscripts and inscriptions from the Anglo-Saxon to the early Tudor periods. Working beyond the traditions established for Latin, scribes of English needed to be more inventive, so that each book was an opportunity for redesigning. Designing English focuses on the craft, agency and intentions of scribes, painters and engravers in the practical processes of making pages and artefacts. It weighs up the balance of ingenuity and copying, practicality and imagination in their work. It surveys bilingual books, format, ordinatio, decoration and reading aloud, as well as inscriptions on objects, monuments and buildings.
With over ninety illustrations, drawn especially from the holdings of the Bodleian Library in Old English and Middle English, Designing English gives a comprehensive overview of English books and other material texts across the Middle Ages.