Melbourne Masterclass – From the Beginning: Antique Papyri to Medieval Manuscripts

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Melbourne Masterclass – From the Beginning: Antique Papyri to Medieval Manuscripts

Session One in the Melbourne Masterclass series Classical Manuscripts – Survivals, Rediscoveries and Transformations

Papyri and their dissemination throughout the Roman Empire, presented by Dr Andrew Turner

Most of our great classical works were written on papyrus, which was relatively cheap and produced on an industrial scale in Egypt. Its fragile nature means that very little has survived, but there have been some spectacular finds over the past 250 years – particularly the papyri from Herculaneum carbonised by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius, and the discarded pages from the rubbish heaps of Oxyrhynchus in the Nile Valley. This session looks at how papyrus spread Roman literature throughout the empire, and will look in detail at the University’s own collection of Oxyrhynchus papyri.

Classical book illustrations and their transformation during the early Middle Ages, presented by Professor Bernard Muir

A small number of deluxe illustrated manuscripts of Classical authors survive today. They contain, in particular, the works of Vergil and Terence, who were two of the most popular and influential authors throughout the Middle Ages. It can be demonstrated that the illustrations in these manuscripts mostly derive from models first devised for papyrus rolls, although there is also strong evidence for the influence of monumental sculpture and consular diptych carving. This session will focus on the development of classical book illustration in the Late Antique period and its transformation during the early Middle Ages.

Series information

Held over four consecutive weeks, this series of object-based seminars and lectures focuses on the sometimes miraculous survivals of the works of the major Roman authors, their preservation in the early Middle Ages, their rediscovery by the great ‘manuscript hunters’ of the Renaissance, and their proliferation and dissemination in the Age of Print. It concludes with a demonstration of how digital technology is today being used to refashion our understanding of the nature of a text and the concept of the book now and into the future.


Session pass: $55*/ $65

Series pass: $200*/$240

*University of Melbourne alumni, staff and students

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