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Treasures known and unknown in the British Library

Knowns and unknowns Passio of St Margaret Kissing Images Textiles and Books Tall Narrow Books Egerton 1900 Journey of Unknowing

Journey of Unknowing


This final example serves, I hope, to exemplify the principal themes, explicit or implicit, of my enquiry. It emphasises the significance of the individual manuscript as unique physical object; the need to apply the broadest codicological method in seeking to understand such manuscripts; the benefits of looking beyond the medium of manuscript illumination; the international nature of our material, both now and when it was made; and, because every image in Egerton 1900 is reproduced in the on-line Catalogue, the possibility that now exists of making a systematic enquiry via that Catalogue, even without consultation of the manuscript itself.

In the end Egerton 1900 emerges as both known (more than before) but also unknown (more than before). This is because we can never know the lost model which it is now clear lies behind both text and image in both manuscript and printed book.

Research on illuminated manuscripts in the digital era, as in any other, is founded, like apophatic theology, or Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, on a paradoxical truth: the product of knowing is not more knowing, but rather it is more unknowing. For as the unknown is researched and becomes the known so it reveals further new and hitherto unsuspected unknowns. Happily, with the help of the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts we all have a chance to participate in that fascinating journey of research, the journey of unknowing.



Knowns and unknowns Passio of St Margaret Kissing Images Textiles and Books Tall Narrow Books Egerton 1900 Journey of Unknowing

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