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The Role of the Scroll

Nonfiction: History
Unabridged   3.75 hour(s)
Publication date: 04/30/2019

NEW! Now Available

The Role of the Scroll

An Illustrated Introduction to Scrolls in the Middle Ages

Available from major retailers or BUY FROM AMAZON
Audio CD ISBN:9781684419890
Digital Download ISBN:9781684419906


Scrolls have always been shrouded by a kind of aura, a quality of somehow standing outside of time. They hold our attention with their age, beauty, and perplexing format. Beginning in the fourth century, the codex—or book—became the preferred medium for long texts. Why, then, did some people in the Middle Ages continue to make scrolls?

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Product Description

In The Role of the Scroll, Thomas Forrest Kelly brings to life the most interesting scrolls in medieval history, placing them in the context of those who made, commissioned, and used them, and reveals their remarkably varied uses. Scrolls were the best way to keep ever-expanding lists, for example, those of debtors, knights, and the dead. While useful for keeping public records, scrolls could also be extremely private. Forgetful stage performers relied on them to recall their lines, and those looking for luck carried either blessings or magic spells, depending on their personal beliefs. Finally, scrolls could convey ceremonial importance, a purpose that lives on with academic diplomas.

In this book, Kelly explores the scroll's incredible diversity. A recipe for turning everyday metal into gold offers a glimpse into medieval alchemy, and a log of gifts for Queen Elizabeth I showcases royal flattery and patronage. Climb William the Conqueror's family tree and take a journey to the Holy Land, following a pilgrimage route to such obligatory destinations as Jaffa, where Peter resurrected Tabitha, and Ramada, the city of Saint Joseph's birth. A lively and accessible guide, The Role of the Scroll is a must-listen for anyone interested in how people keep record of life through the ages.


“A fascinating and scientifically sound study that will be highly appreciated by a wider audience of students and medieval manuscript lovers.” —Giulia Orofino, professor of art history, University of Cassino

“An astonishingly clear and interesting survey of how we used to read and how we read today…a gem of scholarship and of great interest to anyone, and will be the definite work for this dominant medium of reading for years to come.” —Michael Scott Cuthbert, associate professor of music and faculty director of digital humanities, MIT

Author Bio

Thomas Forrest Kelly is professor of music at Harvard University. The author of The Role of the Scroll, Capturing Music, and Music Then and Now, he lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.