Handling Guidelines: Early Manuscripts

We in Special Collections and University Archives are delighted to make early manuscripts available for use by researchers.  Please think carefully as you use these materials, bearing in mind at all times that you are handling an artifact of great historical significance and value. We all have a responsibility to ensure the integrity of these documents and their transmission to future generations. To guide you in this effort, please observe the following:

  • To protect the manuscripts from dirt and hand oils, wash and thoroughly dry your hands before handling, and repeat this frequently.
  • You may look at one manuscript at a time in the Paulson Reading Room.
  • When reading a manuscript, always use a book rest (provided in the Paulson Reading Room). Do not pick it up and read it in your hands.
  • Do not leave the manuscript unattended on the table.  Always return it to the staff person at the Paulson Reading Room desk.
  • If you need to mark a place in the manuscript, use a small acid-free strip of paper. Do not allow the strip to touch the decorations or writing.
  • If you wish to leave a manuscript open at a particular place, use “snakes,” which staff can provide. Gently drape them over the corners or the pages; do not let the snakes touch the decorations or writing.
  • Never touch the decorations (illuminations) or writing on the pages.  Do not point your pencil directly at a manuscript page.
  • Carefully and slowly turn pages, one at a time.
  • When examining manuscripts, avoid sudden and impetuous movements. Think carefully about what you are doing.

Adapted in part from “Reading the Medieval Manuscript” in Introduction to Manuscript Studies by Clement and Graham, p. 74.

Created by nhelmer on Oct 24, 2012 Last updated Oct 24, 2012