On Saturday March 10, at the Book History and Print Culture Colloquium at Massey College, University of Toronto, whose theme was “Books Beyond Reading” I presented the following:
“Heilige Röcke (Holy Skirts) and Liturgical Linings: The Use of Manuscript Materials in the Production of Garments”
(abstract) As revealed through the physical explorations found within codicology research, the processes of manuscript recycling and re-purposing were common throughout history, usually for purposes of mending, or building up spines. However, this research focuses specifically on the re-purposing of book elements as forms of interfacing (stiffening and lining) material within garment construction. One example of this can be seen in the religious manuscripts and legal texts employed as linings in the gowns that enrobe the statues of the Cistercian convent of Wienhausen, in Northern Germany. These fine garments of linen, velvet and silk were created by nuns in the late fifteenth century, and during the fabrication of the Heilige Röcke (“sacred skirts”), stiffening and volume was added to the drapery-like garment folds by gathering parchment underneath the fabric and securing with needle and thread (Klaack-Eitzen, Haase & Weißgraf 2013). The hidden textual matter was only discovered during restoration when conservators found fragments of medieval manuscripts lining hems and collars. Of particular interest, is that these pages were not brought into the convent with the express purpose of utilization as lining, and the socioreligious reasons why they were selected from the collection of manuscripts housed within the convent library.
Klack-Eitzen, Charlotte, Wiebke Haase & Tanja Weißgraf. Heilige Röcke: Kleider für Skulpturen in Kloster Wienhausen. Regensburg, Schnell & Steiner (2013).
I presented with an impressive line-up: https://bhpccolloquium2018.wordpress.com/
And the following is an excerpt form my conference paper:
Research for this paper was derived from the work of Dr. Henrike Lähnemann who currently holds the Chair of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics at Oxford. Her research purview focuses on late medieval devotional manuscripts and early print culture from Northern Germany. This particular research began in 2011, after textile conservators discovered fragments of medieval manuscripts lining the hems of 15th Century dresses at the Cistercian convent of Wienhausen in Northern Germany The research presented is taken from the chapter: “Text und Textil” Dr. Henrike Lähnemann, found in Heilige Röcke: Kleider für Skulpturen in Kloster Wienhausen (Klack-Eitzen, Charlotte, Wiebke Haase & Tanja Weißgraf 2013), and I would like to say a special thank you to Dr. Patrick Gignac of Centennial College for translation of this material from German. Wienehausen was actually a 14th century convent, and is home to various 13th century statues and sculptures of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. The dresses in question, made by nuns in the late fifteenth century, clothed the convent’s statues. It was discovered during restoration, that these sacred manuscripts had been sewn into garments that were used for devotional purposes at the convent, such as to dress up religious statues, or to be used in a production of the Passion Play. These medieval dresses were made of various textiles such as linen, velvet and silk, some were also made from lampas, another luxurious material, and some sported rabbit fur trim at the hems. To achieve drapery-like folds in the fur, the nuns stiffened the hems by lining them with strips of parchment which were gathered into folds and secured by means of a thread (Fig.1). The parchment they utilized for this purpose, was not brought into the Convent for the purpose of lining garments, In fact, the manuscript fragments that have been discovered are recycled materials that include both liturgical manuscripts that were originally written by the nuns themselves and also legal texts (Fig. 2).