Introductory issues on transcription

2. The Manuscript as Artefact

Even though the interest of those working with manuscript sources (palaeographers, historians, etc.) lies mainly with the textual content found therein, it is nevertheless crucial to keep in mind that a manuscript document has much more to offer than the text written on its surface centuries ago. For instance, its parchment may tell us whether a codex was meant to be a luxury item for, say, a member of the aristocracy (if vellum was used). If a late medieval item was copied on paper, its watermarks may inform us about the location where the material was produced and, therefore, establish (perhaps unexpected) links between text and geographical location. 

The idea of the manuscript as a physical artefact has become very widespread in the last few years and it serves to remind us of the importance of looking beyond the lines of text found on the page. More often than not, the exploration of the codex as an archaeological artefact helps one to better understand its origin, provenance and even its very raison-d'etre.