In January I was lucky to be given the funding from Jesus College to head over to Paris as part of my research for my dissertation. The main goal of this trip was to be able to see a manuscript that I am researching in person at the BNF (Bibliothèque Nationale de France). The actual process of getting in touch with the BNF and requesting access to the manuscript wasn’t that difficult (to my surprise!), and I was eventually granted permission to be able to see my manuscript. Despite it being only for half a day, due to the fragile nature of the manuscript and the fact that it is part of the BNF’s special collection, it was a great experience to be able to see and touch the pages that I had been long looking at only on screen.
I’m not gonna lie, and maybe only fellow medievalists will understand this, but oh my – what an amazing time I had! When my manuscript was finally brought out to me, I could feel my hands trembling. I was so excited! To be able to physically handle a manuscript from the 13th/14th century, how often do you get to do that!? (Well, actually, here at Oxford we get to do that quite a lot, but that’s beside the point…). I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting it to be the size it was, and I also wasn’t expecting the folios to be so fragile. I guess that’s what happens when you spend your time looking at objects such as these via computer screens and in books – you forget the actual materiality quality of the objects themselves. Whenever I handle manuscripts, I always try to remember the fact that these were made from living animals, the skin of cows etc. There’s something magical, albeit a little gross about this. It was also a wonderful experience just to be able to turn the pages over, mirroring the actual experience of those 13th century people looking at it. That’s another thing about studying manuscripts and other medieval objects via computers that can be unhelpful, the fact that you can also lose sight of how these objects were used, held, and experienced. I could ramble on for hours talking about how fun it was to be able to interact with an object I have grown to love and appreciate so much, but I will save you all from it.
Due to the fact that I only had access to the manuscript for half a day meant that I went a little obsessive with the amount of photos I took. But hey, I have no regrets! It was important to be able to survey each folio individually, making notes of any particular features that could not be seen on the photos that the BNF have released online.
After spending a mentally fatiguing and exciting day at the BNF, I spent the remaining days in Paris meeting up with friends and my former Au Pair family. I had such a wonderful time in Paris, not only being back in the city that I love so much, but to be able to advance in my research and be able to actually see the manuscript in person!
I have a lot of work now that I need to get on with, including some very difficult attempts at choiring my manuscript – but this is what I love, and cannot wait to get down to it.
Also, a big thank you to Jesus College for providing me with the funding to be able to make this special trip to the BNF.