Thursday, October 01, 2015

[104] Medieval books from parchment to priory on ‘MTSU On the Record’

MURFREESBORO — The next edition of the “MTSU On the Record” radio program examines the process of making books prior to the advent of the printing press.

Host Gina Logue’s interview with Rhonda McDaniel, a professor of English, will air from 5:30 to 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, and from 8 to 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 27, on WMOT-FM (89.5 and

While attending a summer seminar run by the National Endowment for the Humanities at the University of Iowa, McDaniel gained hands-on experience in making books the way monks living at priories did in the Middle Ages, about half a millennium before Johann Gutenberg invented moveable type.

McDaniel and other participants scraped and stretched animal hides to make parchment. She recreated one page of The Leofric Missal, a document believed to have been created around the year 900 in the borderland between Germany and what is now France. It is named for Leofric, who was then the bishop of Exeter in England.

The Leofric Missal is a book of all of the parts of the Catholic mass in the original Latin. McDaniel chose to recreate a page featuring an elaborate diagram that served to help the clergy calculate the date of Easter from year to year.

Even more intriguing to McDaniel than the physical process of replicating text from scratch was the importance of memory in the creation of medieval text, a necessity when multiple copies of a given text were rare.

“When one is constructing the images, the devices by which one is going to remember certain concepts, the advice was to attach an emotion to it, preferably a strong emotion,” said McDaniel. “It’s part of the remembrance of the experience, but it’s also part of what makes the experience valuable.”

To hear previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, go to and click the “more” link under “Audio Clips.”

For more information about “MTSU On the Record,” contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800.

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