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Kissing Images, Unfurling Rolls, Measuring Wounds, Sewing Badges and Carrying Talismans: Considering Some Harley Manuscripts through the Physical Rituals they Reveal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article considers how early users of prayer books handled and interacted with their manuscripts. Deploying evidence from signs of wear within the manuscripts themselves, the author argues that medieval believers used manuscripts ritually in such a way that they blurred the distinction between images and their referents. Votaries treated their manuscripts as interactive agents that they would kiss, rub, and handle with physical affection. Some of their actions imitated those of priests, who ritually handled objects such as the pax and ritually kissed manuscripts, especially the missal. The article interrogates two Harley manuscripts, one an English roll, and the other a Southern Netherlandish book of hours made for the English market, as an entry point into this discussion.


Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Pages (from-to)1-56
Number of pages56
JournalElectronic British Library Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2011

    Research areas

  • Medieval manuscripts, Religious rituals, Talismans

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