The Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at Penn brings manuscript culture, modern technology and people together.


Summer Manuscript Skills Course (taught annually).  Instructors: Nicholas Herman, Amey Hutchins, Will Noel, Dot Porter

An Annual Summer Course co-sponsored by SAS Graduate Division & The Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies

2019 Edition: 28 May – 3 July (Summer Session 1), Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Thursdays 10:00-12:00 Vitale II Media Lab, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts

This non-credit course will introduce graduate students working in medieval and Renaissance periods to the disciplines of manuscript studies, such as codicology and paleography, and will provide an opportunity for students to analyze manuscripts relevant to their research interests in Penn’s collections.

Students will get acquainted with a selection of digital humanities tools as applied to manuscript studies and gain confidence in using manuscript catalogs, working in special collections libraries, handling pre- modern manuscripts, and reading manuscript text.

The course instructors are all staff members of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies and the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts: Will Noel, Director; Dot Porter, Curator of Digital Research Services; Nicholas Herman, Curator of Manuscripts; and Amey Hutchins, Manuscripts Cataloging Librarian.

The only requirement for course participation is an interest in working with manuscripts in research. While knowledge of Latin is useful, it is not required. We welcome graduate students, undergraduate students, and library staff from Penn and other local institutions. There is no fee for taking this course, but participants are encouraged to purchase the course textbook, Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Clemens & Graham).

The deadline for registering is April 5, 2019. To confirm your interest in participating in this course, please email Amey Hutchins (, describing any past paleographical experience, knowledge of Latin and other languages, and reasons for interest in this course.

Registration Link:

Courses taught at the University of Pennsylvania by SIMS Staff   
SIMS Staff teach and co-teach a variety of courses in the School of Arts and Sciences on a recurring basis, included but not limited to the following. Check departmental rosters for up-to-date information on courses being taught in the current academic year.

  • ARTH 343: The Manuscript Book in the 21st Century.  Instructors: Dot Porter and Will Noel
  • ARTH 343: Manuscript Illumination in Philadelphia-area Collections.  Instructor: Nicholas Herman
  • ARTH 343: Art, Politics, and Power in Late Medieval and Renaissance France.  Instructor: Nicholas Herman
  • HIST 574: Introduction to Bibliography.  Instructor: Mitch Fraas (co-taught with Zachary Lesser, Department of English)
  • ARTH 720: Illuminations: Manuscript/Medium/Message.  Instructor: Nicholas Herman (co-taught with David Kim, History of Art)

Courses taught at Rare Book School by SIMS Staff
SIMS staff members Will Noel and Dot Porter frequently teach courses as part of the Rare Book School (RBS) summer program in Philadelphia. For more information, see:

  • M-95: The Medieval Manuscript in the Twenty-First Century.  Instructors: Dot Porter and Will Noel
  • H-25: Fifteenth-Century Books in Print & Manuscript.  Instructor: Will Noel (With Paul Needham)

Visiting Undergraduate and Graduate Classes (available upon request)
In conjunction with curators from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, visiting classes from the University of Pennsylvania and beyond are routinely welcomed to the 6th floor of Van Pelt Library for special handling sessions. Examples of courses for which manuscript handling sessions have been held are included below. For more information, contact Lynn Ransom (

  • Art and Money (History of Art, Penn)
  • Death, Disease, and Demons in the Medieval World (Religious Studies, Penn)
  • Discovering Medieval Manuscripts (Art History, Bryn Mawr College)
  • Introduction to Early Medieval Art and Architecture (Art History, Temple University)
  • Global Middle Ages Literature Course (English, Washington College)
  • Hearing (in) the Middle Ages (Music, Penn)
  • Old Church Slavonic: History, Language, Manuscripts (Comparative Literature, Penn)
  • Renaissance to Contemporary Art (History of Art, Penn)
  • The Sacred in Medieval Europe (Religious Studies, Penn)

Virtual Classroom Visits (available upon request)Instructors: Dot Porter and Mitch Fraas.
Are you a medievalist or early modernist? Are you a library science instructor who teaches history of the book? Do you teach history of science or mathematics? Do you ever wish that you had access to primary sources, manuscripts and printed books, to illustrate concepts covered in your classes?

You may be interested in a service from the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania Libraries. Beginning in Spring 2016, we are offering Virtual Classroom Visits, featuring manuscripts and early printed books from our collections, and knowledgable curators to introduce the items.

What is a Virtual Classroom Visit?
During a Virtual Classroom Visit, a curator at Penn will display and interact with books from our collection, while you and your class watches and asks questions via a video feed. We have a camera installed in the ceiling of our lab. The camera has a USB connection that makes it possible to connect it to a laptop and share the camera view via Skype or Google Hangout. You would need to have a computer with Skype or Google Hangout installed, and an account on either of those programs. You would also need a large monitor or projector. You wouldn’t need a camera on your end.

What kind of books might I show my class?
At Penn, we have a pretty good collection of medieval and renaissance manuscripts. Many of them are in Latin, and include a few Books of Hours, some Bibles, plus a small number of books in Middle English (including a Wycliffite Bible). We also have a very strong collection of secular books – medicine, philosophy, mathematics, astrology, astronomy, and many more – mostly later medieval and early modern, some non-Western. We also have a collection of incunabula, and many other collections of early printed books. To find out more about what manuscripts we have, click some of the links above or search and browse Penn in Hand (most of our manuscripts are digitized). For early printed books, search our online public access catalog, Franklin (this link specifies as the location “Rare Book and Manuscript Library – Rare Book Collection” – you can browse from there).

Why should we have a Virtual Classroom Visit, rather than visiting books in our library or viewing scanned books online?
If your library owns items relevant to your class, you need to take your class to the library! Your librarians will be happy to see you, and there is nothing that compares to the experience of a rare book in real life. For the same reason, if you don’t have access to books at your own library, while it’s not the same as viewing books in real life a Virtual Classroom Visit provides an object-centered view of the book that doesn’t come across in still images. While the resolution of the streaming video isn’t high (so it might be difficult to make out text, especially if it’s quite small), you can really get a sense of the size and “heft” of books, see how they move, even hear them, all things that are more or less obscured by digitization.

If you are interested in the possibility of a Virtual Classroom Visit, now or on the future, please email curators Dot Porter ( or Mitch Fraas ( We look forward to visiting with your class soon!

Local High School Class Visits (available upon request)
In conjunction with curators from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, visiting classes from local high schools can be welcomed to the 6th floor of Van Pelt Library for special manuscript viewing sessions. Examples of manuscript essions tailored to specific classes are included below. For more information, contact Lynn Ransom (

Class visits held recently:

  • Germantown Friends School (Philadelphia), Medieval Literature Class (manuscript session led by Nicholas Herman and John Pollack)
  • Kohelet Yeshiva School (Lower Merion), Hebrew language class (manuscript session led by Nicholas Herman and Louis Meiselman)

Local Elementary School Class Visits (available upon request)
Since 2015, SIMS has offered a program for young children to introduce them to the wonders of medieval manuscripts. Dot uses the well-known and beloved children’s book Marguerite Makes a Book by Bruce Robertson (J. Paul Getty Museum, 1999) as the “textbook” to introduce children to the concept of a hand-produced book and get them ready for seeing the real thing. For more information, contact Dot Porter (

Class visits held recently:

  • Penn Children’s Center (4-5 year olds, one class), Introducing Medieval Manuscripts (session taught by Dot Porter)
  • Southwark Elementary School (second graders, three classes), Introducing Medieval Manuscripts (session taught by Dot Porter)