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The Spirit of the Page: Books and Readers at the Abbey of Fécamp, c.1000-1200

This dissertation examines how Benedictine monks at the Abbey of Fécamp designed, produced, and read books over the course of the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Jennifer Ann Weston
10 March 2015
Full text available in Leiden University Repository

The first part connects the devotional reading practice of lectio divina with the design of the material book and argues that Fécamp scribes purposefully tailored many of their books to suit this particular mode of divine reading. The second part addresses the small number of books from the Fécamp collection with characteristics that do not reflect conventional understandings of how lectio divina was practiced – they imply a different mode of devotional reading that required a selective approach to the text. Moreover, the design of these books also bear a striking resemblance to those produced much later (c. 1200-1300) and in a much different context: the urban schools of Western Europe.

While this dissertation explores the parallels in book design and reading practices uncovered between Fécamp and the later scholastic environment, I demonstrate that these books (and this second mode of devotional reading) can also be explained in the context of traditional Benedictine devotion.

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