RDS Library & Archives

Kelly, Thomas Forrest,

The role of the scroll : an illustrated introduction to scrolls in the Middle Ages / Thomas Forrest Kelly. - First edition. - xii, 177 p. ; ill. 24 cm.

Includes bibliographical references.

Introduction to scrolls -- Scrolls that grow -- Representing space and time: the long red line -- Performers' scrolls -- Private scrolls: amulets, charms, and prayers -- Ritual scrolls -- Roll it back up.

A beautifully illustrated, full-color guide to scrolls and their uses in medieval life.

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?

In The Role of the Scroll, music professor and historian 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, the names of whom were added to existing rolls of parchment through the process of “enrollment.” While useful for keeping public records, scrolls could also be extremely private. Forgetful stage performers relied on them to recall their lines—indeed, “role” comes from the French word for scroll—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. Publisher



Manuscripts, Medieval.--History.--Europe, Western

Z110.S37 / K45 2019


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