Online Lecture: ‘A Library of Memories: Textual Preservation at the Monastery of St. Michael in Egypt’ with Dr Andrea M. Achi, UCLA’s Annual Richard & Mary Rouse History of the Book Lecture, 1 March 2021, 17:00-18:00 (Pacific Time)

This year’s speaker is Dr Andrea M. Achi, Assistant Curator in the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

In 1910, a group of Egyptian farmers claimed they discovered a hoard of Coptic manuscripts in a stone vat outside the village of al-Hamuli of the Fayyum Oasis in Egypt. Sold to J. Pierpont Morgan in 1911, the find amounted to forty-seven manuscripts with a total of 2,481 folios. Most of the manuscripts are associated with a single monastery called the Monastery of St. Michael. Every manuscript from the hoard has ornamental flourishes, marginalia, borders, and frames; twenty-seven contain frontispieces with both figural and ornamental decoration. Almost all of the texts are copies of late antique works. Yet, as their colophons indicate, the manuscripts were, to the extent that they have preserved dates, produced between 822 and 914 CE. As a group, the manuscripts represent the contents of a monastic library.

This talk explores the function of the collection, as a library, within its medieval Egyptian monastic context. Emphasizing the materiality of the manuscripts, I suggest that the manuscripts represented more than textual objects to the Monastery of St. Michael. Ultimately, I argue that the production, use, and storage of The St. Michael Collection rested upon the importance of memory to its monastic community. These discoveries give insights into libraries produced in other Christian communities in Medieval Africa.

Co-sponsored by the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies.

Register here and find out more information here.


Published by Roisin Astell

Roisin Astell received a First Class Honours in History of Art at the University of York (2014), under the supervision of Dr Emanuele Lugli. After spending a year learning French in Paris, Roisin then completed an MSt. in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford (2016), where she was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser and Professor Martin Kauffmann. In 2017, Roisin was awarded a CHASE AHRC studentship as a doctoral candidate at the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, under the supervision of Dr Emily Guerry.

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