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Our Newsletter opens a new page in communications by and with the Research Group.  The issues will appear in alternate forms, flexibly according with the variable methods of current transmission, by email, on screens, and in print.  The printed version of ShelfMarks displays our own font and layout, set out page by page in full.  (8 pages this time.)  This email version provides excerpts and highlights, with links in further directions, set out in web form.  (Plus some images of its own.)

To distinguish between these forms, as an aid to bibliographers, book-lovers, and all of our friends, we may think of the e-version as a form of ShelfTags for ShelfMarks.  The e-version provides a summary, with illustrations, of what's happening in the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence.  We invite you to explore further, and to join the conversation. 
The Director's Cut
Highlights of our Anniversary Year

The Bouquet List
The first of a series of book reviews by Mildred Budny

The Power of Manuscripts in Videogames
The written word still has power, even in digital worlds

The Director's Cut

by Mildred Budny

Welcome to the new e-Newsletter of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence.  Its launch forms part of our anniversary celebrations of 2014.

This year we celebrate anniversaries.  Two in fact.

  1. 15 years as a nonprofit educational corporation, officially recognized as a 501(c)(3) organization in the United States and based in Princeton, New Jersey
  2. 25 years as an international scholarly society, founded in the United Kingdom as part of a collaborative research project on “Anglo-Saxon and Related Manuscripts” (1987‒1994) at the Parker Library of Corpus Christi College in the University of Cambridge.
The Research Group is an unusual scholarly entity, a sort of university without walls, open to the academic and wider worlds.  In this Anniversary Year, we celebrate our achievements and collaborations with multiple activities, both in person and online;
  1. a Party in Princeton in April
  2. a set of 5 sponsored and co-sponsored Sessions at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in May 
  3. an Anniversary Reception jointly with the Societas Magica at the Congress 
  4. a 2-day Symposium on “Recollections of the Past” at Princeton University later in May 
  5. the redesign of our official website, now featuring images as well as our own multilingual digital font Bembino, while our old site also continues to be  accessible during the transition.
  6. an update of Bembino in Version 1.2, available now for download FOR FREE along with its booklet.
  7. Activities planned for the autumn (to be announced)
  8. this new newsletter (You are here).
Among the new developments in our redesigned website are images and blog posts.  The images and other media display our research work, manuscripts, publications, and events.  The posts archive and showcase our activities – Congress sessions, symposia, events, and projects – in sections all newly revised and updated, also with pictures.  These features offer the occasion to present and to illustrate our interests, reflections, and favorite themes. 

We examine many subjects, often interrelated, in the transmission of the written word in multiple forms through the ages, often centering upon the medieval and early modern periods.  Our scholarly meetings and celebrations relate the discoveries, questions, and work-in-progress, with opportunity for discussions, feedback, and collaboration.  

Our newsletter opens an online forum for comparing notes, sharing information, and expressing reflections.

We invite contributions for the future issues of this newsletter.  For example:  books, conferences, and exhibitions to review, topics to address, news to share of your interests, activities, or work-in-progress, questions to share, discoveries to report, accomplishments to celebrate, and more – please let us know.

[Photography © Mildred Budny]

The Bouquet List: A Gathering of New Books

by Mildred Budny

This review celebrates research by and partly by Trustees and Associates of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence (RGME) by showcasing some recent publications in print and online. The title alludes to the widespread medieval genre of florilegia (“gatherings of flowers”), which collect selected extracts of texts from a larger body or bodies of work. Such compilations, also called “Commonplace Books” or “Miscellanies” — whether deliberate, haphazard, or serendipitous in the assembly — have figured in various RGME workshops and publications, and continue to offer challenges for examination. The title also takes inspiration from the term bouquet in mathematics, wherein, according to some definitions, a “rose’”, also known as a “bouquet of n circles”, yields a “topological space” by “gluing” together a collection of circles (which might take various shapes such as loops) along a single point.

The group of flowering works selected here represent a sampling of our collective and individual interests, which converge and overlap to various extents. 

First we salute the most recent publications in the long series issuing from conferences held by the Index of Christian Art at Princeton University.  This University, through its Departments and Programs, including the Department of Art & Archaeology, the Index, and the Medieval Studies Program, has been the most frequent host and co-sponsor for RGME symposia since our arrival in Princeton in 1994. The publications are edited by our Honorary Trustee Colum Hourihane, with contributions by some of our Officers and Associates. . . .

Next, this review also considers some publications by Malcolm B. Parkes . . .

READ MORE

[Photography © Mildred Budny]

The Power of Manuscripts in Videogames

by Jim Tigwell

Dragon Age: Origins, in the libraryText as such has been a part of video games since the days of "Zork" (1997–1999), one of the earliest interactive fiction games, set in “the ruins of an ancient empire lying underground”.  In "Zork", a game that literally predates computer graphics, the text explains the world and mediates the player’s experience during play. It still serves many of these purposes, with games that wish to preserve a rich continuity employing in-game codices containing the details about their setting, characters, and story.  Some games, like the "Elder Scrolls" series (1994), populate their worlds with books written ostensibly by the characters in the world, from accounts of its fantastic history to treatises on its fictional herbs. 
 
Manuscripts occupy a curious and fascinating place in this dynamic, because the text they contain is so often irrelevant.  As papers containing ancient and often magical words, they exist as objects of power to be fought for. In "Dragon Age: Origins" (2009), the scrolls of Banastor detail an ancient magic ritual which the player must reassemble by collecting the manuscripts from dangerous dungeons across the world. In "Alan Wake" (2010), a game about a writer whose words shape the nature of the world, the player collects pieces of Alan’s novel to uncover the context surrounding the characters’ situations, and occasionally hints about future events. 
 
More often than not, manuscripts in video games exist in pieces, to be collected and assembled as the player completes other objectives in the game. Ambitious players will find themselves combing through ancient libraries or sometimes even scrap heaps in order to assemble a piece of lore. "World of Warcraft" (2004) features a number of quests where players must cooperate to collect and put together the fragments of a text. 

Players tend to approach the texts themselves in ways based on their values. Players after a good story will chase them to discover new things about the world of the game, while players more interested in gameplay will seek them out for the rewards they offer or for those offered by characters in the game who desire them. 
 
As objects of power or ways of creating deeper worlds, manuscripts are here to stay in video games. "Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" (2011) has over eight hundred books in the game, and players relate to them in much the same way historians do. We seek them out, develop relationships with them, and try to use them to understand the bigger picture around us.
Contact us with your ideas and submissions at shelfmarks@manuscriptevidence.org, or join the discussions on our social media below!
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ShelfMarks Volume 1, Number 1 (Autumn 2014) appears in PDF here:  
http://manuscriptevidence.org/wpme/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/ShelfMarks-Volume-1-Number-1.pdf
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Copyright © 2014 Research Group on Manuscript Evidence, All rights reserved.


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The Research Group exists to apply an integrated approach to the study of manuscripts and other forms of the written or inscribed word, in their transmission across time and space.  The Newsletter joins our other publications, both online and in print, with the aim to report activities, work-in-progress, research results, questions, and news.  

The occasional Newsletter is edited by Mildred Budny and Jim Tigwell.  Please send items, announcements, and conference or exhibition listings to the editors at shelfmarks@manuscriptevidence.org

See our Publications at manuscriptevidence.org/profile/publications/.