Practical Paleography and the Baumfylde Manuscript: An Undergraduate Research Unit for Literature Classes Abstract
Keri Sanburn Behre, Portland State University
This article contains a detailed account of my first time teaching the paleography unit I created for my Early Modern Women’s Literature class, as well as some reflections on the pedagogical importance of practical paleography—that is, transcribing manuscripts with enough precision and comprehension that the recipes can be followed by the transcriber. The unit is centered on the Baumfylde Va456 manuscript (1626, 1702–1758), a collection of medicinal and culinary recipes begun by Mary Baumfylde in 1626 and continued in several other hands into the eighteenth century. The paleography lessons described here would work well in any class in which three weeks could be devoted to a study of the manuscript, basic transcription skills, and the material culture of the period. Working with the Baumfylde manuscript introduces valuable literary literary diversity by showcasing women writers and engendering conversations on what constitutes a literary text. Transcribing and editing its recipes with the goal of creating the foods and medicines they describe brings to students a scholarly degree of close reading, immersion, and material participation not easily achievable through more traditional modes of study. Teaching the Baumfylde manuscript allows students to exercise practical transcription and interpretation skills while inviting them to participate in the concept of literary self-creation by contributing to a unique transcribed edition of the text based upon their experiences.