Previous Graduate Student Fellows


Hallie Swanson, University of Pennsylvania

Hallie Nell Swanson is a third-year PhD student in the Religious Studies department at Penn, specializing in Islam in South Asia. She focuses on the relationship between Indo-Persian literary culture and Islamic ethics in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century North India, with a particular interest in material texts and embodied knowledge. Prior to Penn, Hallie studied Urdu, Hindi and Persian literature at Columbia University (BA, Comparative Literature) and the University of Oxford (MSc, Modern South Asian Studies).
For the 2021-22 academic year, Hallie is working with a set of manuscripts of Persian prose romances now held in Philadelphia and on OPenn’s Manuscripts of the Muslim World collection, used in India to teach the Persian language alongside Islamic ethics, whether as fine illustrated manuscripts for young princes or plainer copies to be annotated by schoolboys. With the advent of European trading companies and eventually colonialism, many manuscripts of these texts found their way into European and American private hands, auction houses and eventually libraries. Her project will make use of the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts to map their circulation and show how the physical traces left by readers and owners can be used to chart changes in the texts’ perceived meanings and status.


Matthew Aiello, University of Pennsylvania

Matthew Aiello is a 4th-year PhD Candidate in English at UPenn. His dissertation – Writing Under Duress: Trauma and Repetition in Early England (1000-1270) – explores how forms of loss and trauma in post-Conquest England can be used to reshape contemporary theory by asking how the Middle Ages have always been central to articulations of trauma. You can find his published work on manuscripts, law, and riddles in Comitatus (2017), Essays and Studies (2017), Review of English Studies (2020), and New Medieval Literatures (2021).

As an extension of his dissertation research on loss, Matthew will spend the 2020-21 academic year as a SIMS Graduate Fellow building a digital interface that offers users a space to lay bare a manuscript’s full history of loss and repair. Using two Schoenberg manuscripts – UPenn, MSS Codex 196 and 1056 – as test cases for his software, this project will allow book historians to collate their medieval manuscripts (and early modern books) temporally, thereby visualizing how a manuscript’s contents change over time. While there are already a number of brilliant digital tools that aid scholars in assessing the details present in an extant codex, book historians and conservators often have access to information that extends beyond the manuscript’s current form – what folios and bits of text are likely missing, what’s been added and when – and this project aims to offer educated speculation a seat at the table for what counts as meaningful when rendering manuscripts in digital spaces.


Christine Bachmann, University of Delaware

LJS 101, a copy of Boethius’s Latin translation of Aristotle’s De interpretatione dated to ca. 850 with eleventh-century additions and believed to have been made at the monastery of Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire (the Abbaye de Fleury) in north central France, is a stunning example of Carolingian manuscript production held in the Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection. It offers insights on the decoration of Carolingian manuscripts, on the reception of Boethuis and Aristotle in the early Middle Ages, and on the production and use of manuscripts in early medieval monastic writing centers. For these reasons, LJS 101 offers a wealth of information that will provide insight into the making and intellectual environment of early medieval manuscripts. My research will focus on LJS 101’s material aspects and the historical, intellectual, and artistic context in which it was made. I will examine the manuscript for the physical evidence of its construction, such as its quire structure and patterns of pricking and ruling. I will also research the decoration of other Carolingian manuscripts containing similar secular and Classical texts to place LJS 101 in its artistic context. These comparable manuscripts include a copy of Apicius De re coquinaria from Tours and dated to the mid-ninth century (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and also a copy of texts by Cicero similarly dated to the mid-ninth century and likely from the monastery of Corbie (Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, S. Marco 257).


Aylin Malcolm, University of Pennsylvania (January-June 2019)

Aylin Malcolm, a PhD candidate in the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania, will conduct research on UPenn Ms. Codex 1881, an astronomical anthology from fifteenth-century Germany recently acquired by the Kislak Center. This project supplements her planned dissertation research, which will consider exchanges between literary texts and works of natural science in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In particular, Ms. Codex 1881 contains annotated copies of the anonymous Theorica  planetarum and Johannes de Sacrobosco’s Tractatus de sphaera, two of the most widely  disseminated astronomical texts in late medieval Europe. These texts influenced many scholars within this period; for example, Georg von Peuerbach’s 1454 Theoricae novae planetarum was essentially an updated version of the Theorica planetarum. Yet Sacrobosco was also popular among amateurs, including some writers such as Geoffrey Chaucer. Modern scholars such as John  North have noted that Part I of Chaucer’s Treatise on the Astrolabe draws on Sacrobosco’s text, suggesting that the astronomical references in his poetry (e.g The Man of Law’s Tale) may also have  been inspired by De sphaera, and revealing the need for research that compares these literary and  scientific traditions.


Emily Shartrand, University of Delaware

Over the course of the 2017-2018 academic year, SIMS Graduate Student Fellow Emily Shartrand will be working on a case study of the roughly 2,300 fragments of Western Medieval manuscripts collected by John Frederick Lewis of Philadelphia and now housed at the Free Library of Philadelphia. These fragments are comprised of full leaves, cuttings, and former binding waste with sister pages found in a number of other libraries across the United States and Europe. Even in their incomplete state, Lewis recognized the value of these objects and consequently they represent what is likely the largest deliberately collected body of medieval manuscript fragments in the world.

As part of this project, the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies is partnering with Fragmentarium, an international digital research lab for medieval manuscript fragments. Officially launched in St. Gall, Switzerland, on September 1st 2017, the Fragmentarium platform, link below, enables libraries, collectors, researchers and students to publish medieval manuscript fragments, allowing them to catalogue, describe, transcribe, assemble and re-use them online. Emily will be working closely with SIMS Curator of Manuscripts Dr. Nicholas Herman to upload these objects to the Fragmentarium platform and strive to reunite them with their sister leaves and host volumes.


Daniel Mackey, University of Pennsylvania

Digitally Documenting the Renaissance Reception of Aristotle’s De Anima Using TEI/XML: Encoding Texts and Their Metadata

The Renaissance reception of Aristotle’s works, especially the De Anima, is a fascinating and understudied topic. Several Renaissance De Anima commentaries are housed in in the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts’ collections, including the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies’ collection, many of which have yet to be explored and subjected to scholarly scrutiny. Using TEI/XML this project will seek to digitally transcribe and document sections of two of Penn’s Renaissance De Anima commentaries as well as their metadata, specifically: Ms. Codex 855 (attributed to one Placidus Aegidius Melander and the only known witness), and Ms. Codex 769 (anonymously attributed). The project will also include an in house exhibition, to be installed in the Synder-Granader Alcove gallery in the fall of 2017, which will feature texts from Penn’s special collections that can attest to the wide-reaching influence of the works of the man famously referred to throughout history as “The Philosopher.” By using TEI/XML as a transcription and encoding medium, this project will seek to establish four goals: First, to produce diplomatic and critical transcriptions of sections from both codices; Second, to encode the texts in such a way so as to be easily incorporated into the larger corpus of online texts; Third, to publish the transcriptions at, and Fourth, to tag names, references, and quotations so they can be easily searched and linked with instances of the same in other De Anima commentaries.

Ultimately this research seeks to examine the relationship between the Renaissance reception of the De Anima and the earlier Scholastic tradition surrounding it. The specific research question at issue here is how did Renaissance and early modern commentators interpret Aristotle’s De Anima and to what extent do these interpretations stand in line with or depart from the preceding tradition of Scholastic commentaries on the De Anima.


Susanne Kerekes, University of Pennsylvania

Horoscopes, Epic Poetry, and Grammar: Documenting the 19th-century Thai manuscripts of a University of Pennsylvania alumnus and American missionary, William Samuel Waithman Ruschenberger

William Samuel Waithman Ruschenberger – a University of Pennsylvania alumnus – made US history in 1838 with the publication of his travel diary. The diary details events leading up to the signing of the US’s first-ever treaty with an Asian nation. Only one year after receiving his doctorate in 1880, Ruschenberger was commissioned as a surgeon for the US Navy, and assigned to accompany diplomat Edmund Roberts on the USS Peacock in 1835. Roberts died of dysentery on the journey home, leaving Ruschenberger solely responsible for documenting the remaining events of the mission, as well as posthumously publishing Roberts’ diary. Thus, while it was Roberts who was sent by President Andrew Jackson to secure the aforementioned treaty with Siam (present-day Thailand), it was Ruschenberger who made the accounts of the mission known.

Among the roughly fifty Thai manuscripts in the Penn Libraries’ collection, one is from Ruschenberger. The manuscript is made of mulberry paper, formatted in concertina style, and is 31-folios long on both sides. Although the manuscript is void of text and illustrations (save for a hand-written colophon in ink by Ruschenberger), it is rare evidence of a 19th-century Thai manuscript before its use by a scribe. Thus, it provides a unique opportunity to examine the materiality of a Thai manuscript without textual or pictorial mark-up. Looking at this manuscript against the backdrop of five other more complete Thai manuscripts, this project will take the opportunity to explore the material and conceptual construction of Thai manuscripts through a process of physical analysis and translation. The project will result in online translations of several of the texts in these manuscripts, available for the first time, and a short film documentary on these manuscripts that will showcase the richness of the Thai manuscript tradition while also highlighting a history of some early collectors of Thai manuscripts.