Manuscript Studies

The University of Pennsylvania has aggressively made itself into one of the premier centers in the world for the study of manuscripts. Professors Ann Matter, Jamal Elias, Annette Reed, and Justin McDaniel work closely with the Schoenberg Center for Manuscript Studies and the Rare and Special Collections Department of Penn’s Van Pelt Library, the Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rosenbach Museum, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Professors of Religious Studies often bring rare manuscripts into the classroom for undergraduate and graduate students, and students can intern at these manuscript research archives to examine the primary sources themselves.


UPenn Ms. Codex 1058, fol. 1r

Every year, members of the Department of Religious Studies work with the annual Lawrence J. Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age which brings together scholars representing a wide range of religions and traditions to examine the ways in which hand-produced texts shape both meaning and interpretation, and to a larger extent, the cultural norms that define their use.  They also consider the role that modern digital technology can play to facilitate the study of manuscripts today.

Besides the annual symposium, there is a weekly seminar at Penn — The History of Material Texts Seminar, a world recognized group led by Professors Peter Stallybrass and Roger Chartier, now in their 18th year, which includes participants (faculty, librarians, graduates, booksellers and anyone else interested) that come from a very wide range of disciplines to work on issues in the study of manuscripts.

The University of Pennsylvania Press’s prestigious series “Material Texts” edited by Roger Chartier, Joseph Farrell, Anthony Grafton, Leah Price, Peter Stallybrass, and Michael F. Suarez, S.J. has published almost thirty books on the subject of material texts and manuscript studies since 2001.