Medieval reading habits

Teresa Edgerton

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Very interesting. If, without the rest of the article, I heard that someone was developing a technique "which measures the dirt accumulated on medieval manuscripts," I would be thinking and academics get paid for this sort of thing? But it actually makes sense.
 

RJM Corbet

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Very interesting. If, without the rest of the article, I heard that someone was developing a technique "which measures the dirt accumulated on medieval manuscripts," I would be thinking and academics get paid for this sort of thing? But it actually makes sense.
I know.
It's bizarre ... :)
 

The Ace

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So people who could read behaved the same way as modern readers.

Sorry, but this is a bit like swimming the Channel to tell us that water is wet.

People in the Middle Ages weren't really all that different from us, intellectually, and identical biologically - of course they'd behave the same way.
 

RJM Corbet

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And I'm just thinking if you paid as much for your book as for your house, would you get it the pages dirty and fall asleep with it? Reading and writing were restricted mostly to monasteries. Books were handwritten and illustrated, rare and valuable things ...
 

Teresa Edgerton

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People in the Middle Ages weren't really all that different from us, intellectually, and identical biologically - of course they'd behave the same way.
They had very powerful cultural conditioning however.

And I would imagine that the article only touched on those (most preliminary) parts of the study that the journalist (more or less) understood, and those in a very superficial way. Which is the way of such articles on the net.

It's the basic idea that intrigues me. Thinking about it, it's sort of obvious, but I wouldn't have thought of it.

And I'm just thinking if you paid as much for your book as for your house, would you get it the pages dirty and fall asleep with it?
Just by touching the pages you'd be leaving minute amounts of dirt behind, which, with continued use, would accumulate.
 

hitmouse

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So people who could read behaved the same way as modern readers.

Sorry, but this is a bit like swimming the Channel to tell us that water is wet.

People in the Middle Ages weren't really all that different from us, intellectually, and identical biologically - of course they'd behave the same way.
If medieval reading habits are shown to be similar to the modern day, that is in itself interesting, even if it confirms a suspicion.

Human nature may not have changed very much, but the environment which influences reading has changed hugely e.g.
Movable type printing
Paper manufacture
Literacy rates, education
Life expectancy
Division of labour
In Europe at least: MLK, reformation, non-conformist movement, enlightenment etc
Cost, availability, and range of reading material
Journalism
Alternative media
Transport
Electric lights and central heating.
 

Montero

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The falling asleep while reading the middle of the night prayers may or may not have been reading in bed. :)

Monks certainly rose to pray in the middle of the night - there were "offices" every four hours. I seem to remember there were monks detailed to keep an eye out for their brethren who fell asleep while praying and it was one of the common causes of doing penance.

The devout layman should also have been rising from his bed to pray in the night - the rich had their own crucifix and padded kneeling stool in their rooms. So it is possible they fell asleep on the kneeler, with the prayer book on a stand in front of them.

It also says, not surprisingly given the cost of the book, that they could afford to burn a candle in the night to read the prayer.
 

Vertigo

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I believe in medieval times it was very common to wake for several hours in the middle of the night. I believe this was considered a time for private conversation and prayer. The reasoning is that people would go to bed soon after dark and rise with the light but, particularly in the long winter nights, that meant quite a long night so it was common practice for people to spend a couple of hours awake in the middle. (I seem to recall this was talked about recently somewhere in the Chrons).

If, as is thought, this time was commonly spent in prayer then I suspect there might be a more prosaic explanation. They would begin reading the prayers, get bored and have a conversation instead.
 
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