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Bischoff Collection

Rare manuscript fragments acquired

More than one hundred fragments of medieval manuscripts and early printed books from the twelfth to sixteenth centuries have been acquired by Monash University Library this year.

The collection previously belonged to the world-renowned authority on medieval palaeography (the study of handwriting), Professor Bernhard Bischoff (1906-1991). The Library is digitising this valuable and unique manuscript collection.

Teaching applications

The Bischoff collection will prove invaluable to students of medieval history at Monash, who are frequently a long way from European buildings and relics of the Middle Ages.

The collection will also help to train students in reading and translating of Latin manuscripts and early printed books. Because a great number of these fragments still need to be identified, students can also become involved in the task of identifying these fragments, using a range of digital tools.

Research and Collaboration

International researchers based in Fribourg in Switzerland (fragmentarium.ms) coordinate the work of libraries, collectors, researchers and students from around the world to identify and catalogue medieval manuscript fragments. The aim is to possibly unite and assemble such fragments scattered in libraries across the world.

Students and researchers in fields including medieval studies, palaeography, the history of printing, the development of the English language and more, can benefit from accessing manuscript and early book fragments.

Monash students and researchers may be able to participate in the Fragmentarium project with items from the Bischoff collection.

Academic response

Dr Kathleen Neal, Lecturer in History, says that the opportunity to acquire the Bischoff collection was too good to pass up. In her experience, the chance to interact physically with past artifacts almost always stimulates students at a deeper level - not only intellectually but also emotionally and viscerally.

“There is a sense of wonder that is stimulated by being in the presence of ancient things, especially when you can actually touch them, and engage all your senses in the experience and the analysis," she says. "It’s such a thrill to be able to share this kind of experience with undergraduates more broadly."

Access the online collection

Visit Monash Collections Online to view the manuscript fragments that have been digitised to date.

Our thanks to Masters student Kyly Walker, the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies paleography group, and the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies for their assistance in describing and documenting this online collection.