Scholars of the Middle Ages are familiar with the notion of text as an inscribed document, whether that inscription occurs upon stone, metal, vellum or textiles, but the concept of inscription and, therefore, of text, can be extended to cover a range of evidence. Thus, one might speak of archaeological remains, land use patterns, traditional stories, remnant practices and revenant beliefs as constituting texts in their own right. Broadly defined then, text is the means by which we engage with the historical subject. The medievalist, however, faces particular constraints in interpreting these texts through the agencies of their transmission. Questions such as who authored these texts, when and why, intersect with problems of transcription, translation and redaction to inform a complex discourse. The majority of the chapters in this book started life as papers presented at a conference entitled Text and Transmission in Early Medieval Europe and the title of this book ultimately derives from that theme.
The subjects these chapters deal with range in geography from Ireland through to Byzantium, and cover almost a millennium of European history, but they are united in their effort to prise from their subjects some truths about texts, transmission and the critical literacies needed to interpret both.