Manuscripts and Special Collections

Introduction to Medieval Books


A book (sometimes called a codex) is a collection of sheets bound at one side. It has been remarkably long-lived as a piece of technology. This unit explores how medieval books were designed, laid out, decorated and bound.

Nowadays our books are published and sold as complete, finished items. But before the age of print, books were expensive to produce and speculative publishing was uncommon. Many medieval readers would have commissioned the book from scratch, chosen the text, and employed the scribe, the illuminator and the binder to make the codex for them. Others would have collected a variety of different texts and had them bound them together into one book.

Throughout the unit, illustrative images are taken from the collections held by Manuscripts and Special Collections at the University of Nottingham. Most come from the Wollaton Library Collection.

This unit was adapted from an online Book History module written by Dr Nicola Royan and Dr Joanna Martin of the School of English Studies at The University of Nottingham.

The unit was published in February 2011.

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Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

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