Our conference aims to rethink the history of late medieval literacy. We will focus on texts that can labelled as compendia of knowledge, i.e. collections of knowledge from around the world in the form of historical, philosophical, medical, ethical, or catechetical summaries. Some of these texts were read by large audiences across different strata of medieval society and were copied, adapted, and even translated into the vernacular throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. Their popularity is documented by the large number of surviving manuscripts.
Codicological study of this body of manuscripts has the potential, in some cases, to reconstruct the channels of transmission and dissemination of the compendia. As they spread gradually, initially to elite centres of learning, but later to a larger range of recipient groups (parishes, citizens, nobility), we consider them to be suitable material for researching the readers.
Participants are invited to rethink a variety of questions, including:
Can we categorise Books of Knowledge as a genre?How does the cultural milieu influence the nature of the text's reception and its final form?Through what channels were medieval compendia disseminated?What evidence explains the extensive number of preserved manuscripts of a particular text?What does this prove about their codicological context?What are the limits to research about the communities of readers in the Late Middle Ages?What did the reception of a specific text look like in different social, political, and confessional milieus?
Pavlína Cermanová, Vojtěch Bažant, Jaroslav Svátek and Václav Žůrek
Centre for Medieval Studies
The Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic