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Marginal Scholarship: the practice of learning in the early middle ages

Our knowledge of Latin texts from Antiquity and Late Antiquity is primarily based on manuscripts from the early Middle Ages. The margins of these manuscripts, moreover, often contain annotations which enrich the treasured texts with new layers of interpretation. These marginal and interlinear annotations have long been neglected, since they were considered to be the product of unimportant, anonymous monks. In this project, which ran from May 2011 to May 2016, they were the central focus: they tell the story of the transformation of knowledge on all kinds of subjects, ranging from natural phenomena of the cosmos to orthodox teachings on predestination. They highlighted the methods and interests of the scholarly world in this period, and reflect the discussions and debates that accompanied the pursuit of knowledge.


These practices of annotation, previously mostly neglected, were explored and analysed in this project. They offered a new perspective on early medieval intellectual life and open up exciting new research questions.


Three complementary research questions were explored:

The project delivered a series of publications, a dissertation (Evina Steinova, defended in March 2017, cum laude), a Database with observations about annotations in ca 350 Carolingian manuscripts, and an international edited volume with 26 contributions on the theme.

Other publications:

Renswoude, I. van (2017), ‘The Censor’s Rod: Textual Criticism, Judgment and Canon Formation in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages’, in: M. J. Teeuwen, I. van Renswoude (eds.), The Annotated Book. Early Medieval Practices of Reading and Writing, Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy 38 (Turnhout: Brepols), 555-596.

Steinová, E. (2017), ‘Technical signs in Early Medieval Manuscripts Copied in Irish Minuscule’, in: The Annotated Book in the Early Middle Ages. Practices of Reading and Writing, Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy 38 (Turnhout: Brepols), 37-86.

Steinová, E. (2016), ‘The List De notis sententiarum in the Liber Glossarum’, Journal of Medieval Latin 26, 315-362.

Steinová, E. (2015), ‘Psalmos, notas, cantus: the meanings of nota in the Carolingian period’. Speculum 90:2 (2015), 424-457.

Steinová, E. (2014), ‘Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, MS Clm 6298: A new witness of the biblical commentaries from the Canterbury school’. Anglo-Saxon England 43 (2014): 45-55.

Teeuwen, M.J. (forthcoming), ‘Die Ränder der Handschrift als Spiegel des mittelalterlichten Geistes: Die karolingische Zeit’, Wolfenbütteler Hefte 36 (Wolfenbüttel: Herzog August Bibliothek).

Teeuwen, M.J. (forthcoming), ‘The ars musica in Glosses and Commentaries in Early Medieval Manuscripts’, chapter in the edited volume Music in the Carolingian World: Studies in honour of Charles Atkinson (Columbus, Ohio).

Teeuwen, M.J. (2013), Inaugural lecture Stemmen van de zijlijn: de organisatie van kennis in middeleeuwse handschriften, 11 January 2013, published online at