Medieval texts are a window into the monastic world and an integral part of European written history. Most of our current understanding of the processes of codex construction comes from the careful examination of the clues to manufacture on the object itself, the practice of codicology. Increasingly scholars are interested in the material qualities of the book. How and why were the decisions on the selection of materials made? Recent advances in analytical methods are broadening the reach of codicology in unexpected ways and enabling these questions to be addressed. The SCRIBE project is at the forefront of this burgeoning field of molecular codicology, having developed and implemented an exciting new minimally destructive DNA sampling technique, derived from routine parchment conservation practice. SCRIBE will further implement this method to generate two novel high throughput genomic datasets from parchment manuscripts. Firstly the materiality of the manuscripts will be described by assessing the genetic relationship between the animals used to complete the codices. Secondly SCRIBE will be the first study to combine high throughput metagenomic techniques and novel bioinformatic approaches to a large sample size of documents in multiple archives to look at the microbial fingerprints of parchments, to complement their provenance and curation.
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