Books in medieval Europe

Using the medieval book

Consulting a medieval book was challenging—they could be very heavy and half a meter wide (more than 1.5 feet) when open.

c. 330 - 1300 C.E.

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Medieval notepads
Medieval notepads

At medieval universities, students took notes on parchment scraps, sometimes bound together with cord.

The medieval origins of the modern footnote
The medieval origins of the modern footnote

Manuscript readers tracked marginal comments with dots, lines, letters, and numbers—anticipating the footnote.

Finding books
Finding books

From cupboard shelfmarks to bookcase inventories, medieval readers devised codes for locating precious volumes.

Smart bookmarks
Smart bookmarks

Lose your place? Not in a monastic library. Static or dynamic, “spider,” or wheel, these bookmarks stay put.

Getting personal in the margins
Getting personal in the margins

Scribes left plenty of empty space, but readers often filled the margins with comments—and even little hands.

The medieval desktop
The medieval desktop

A carousel, a wheel, or a portable desk? Reading multiple books at once required ample space and custom furniture.

Selected Contributors | Using the medieval book