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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : History of Art

Undergraduate Course: Picturing Science in Premodern Manuscripts and Printed Books (HIAR10186)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryScience is a sensual enterprise. Phenomena are observed and imaged, often in books. This course examines the ways that this was done in pre-modern Europe between 500 and 1500 through a series of case studies. Although manuscripts in Latin and European vernaculars are the focus, they will be put into dialogue with books from other periods and cultures. The course takes advantage of the rich holdings of the University and nearby collections and, where possible, involves hands-on exercises. The basics of paleography and codicology will be covered.
Course description Medieval science has been called ¿livresque¿, that is, set down and largely conducted in books. While challenging this claim, this course takes advantage of the wealth of medieval and early renaissance manuscripts and printed books that gave rise to it. Science, derived from the Latin ¿scientia¿, carried different connotations in the Middle Ages than it does today. It meant simply ¿knowledge¿ and often referred to expertise or skill in any domain. In certain contexts, however, it denoted absolute truth, divine in origin; as such, its exclusive sources were deemed to be the Bible and the mathematical disciplines of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music. This course embraces medieval scientia in all its varied forms. Students will look at books devoted to everything from multiplication to machine construction, time reckoning to land surveying, optics to elephants. Such tracts, which in the not-so-distant past were deemed to be largely beyond the scope of art historical study, are often filled with pictures. Students will consider the diverse conceptual roles these pictures played, exploring questions of precision, style and efficacy in light of production, transmission and use.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: History of Art 2A Reason, Romance, Revolution: Art from 1700 to 1900 (HIAR08027) AND History of Art 2B From Modernism and the Avant-Gardes to Postmodernism and Globalisation (HIAR08028)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students who have passed at least 60 credits of Architectural History at Level 8 can also take these courses. If the pre-requisites cannot be met, entry to this course can be negotiated in consultation with either the Course Organiser or Programme Director (History of Art).
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 History of Art courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses. As numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate skills of visual analysis and interpretation of premodern books¿their structure, material and pictures.
  2. Demonstrate understanding of medieval science and its verbal and visual manifestations, and a detailed knowledge of selected key works .
  3. Demonstrate knowledge of medieval theories of cognition and the diverse roles that images were thought to play in thought and revelation
  4. Demonstrate a critical awareness of the way that medieval science has been treated by scholars over time and in different disciplines, especially the history of science and art history
  5. Demonstrate confidence in identifying, conceptualising and expressing novel problems raised by the material
Reading List
Bredekamp, Horst, Vera Dünkel, and Birgit Schneider, eds. The Technical Image: A History of Styles in Scientific Imagery. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2015.

Hamburger, Jeffrey F. Diagramming Devotion: Berthold of Nuremberg¿s Transformation of Hrabanus Maurus¿s Poems in Praise of the Cross. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2020.

Morrison, Elizabeth, ed. with assistance from Larisa Grollemond, Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2019.

Murdoch, John Emery. Album of Science: Antiquity and the Middle Ages. New York: Scribner, 1984.

Vorholt, Hanna. Shaping Knowledge: The Transmission of the Liber Floridus. London: The Warburg Institute, 2017.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Visual and critical analysis; Clear thinking and the development of an argument; Independent research; Presentation and communication skills; Organisation and planning.
KeywordsManuscripts,Printed Books,Medieval,Renaissance,Science,Text and Image,Diagrams,Style
Course organiserDr Megan McNamee
Course secretaryMiss Chloe Hancock
Tel: (0131 6)50 4124
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