Research

Liturgical books used in the parish churches were the most common books of the Middle Ages. Their making employed countless scribes and other book artisans. This high-volume production was also an important factor driving the commercialisation of book crafts, ultimately culminating in the development of the printing press. Yet the book culture of the parishes remains poorly known because so little of it survives.

BOMPAC seeks to understand the book provision of medieval parish churches in the medieval kingdom of Sweden. Instead of focusing on the very few complete manuscripts, the  project makes innovative use of the  unique collections of fragments preserved in the National Library of Finland and Royal Archives in Stockholm. The project is divided into two work packages.

Durable parchment of medieval books was recycled en masse all over Early Modern Europe. In the kingdom of Sweden, the books of the c. 1000 parish churches found new use in the royal fiscal administration. Bailiffs collecting taxes took the books apart and used their leaves as covers or wrappers for their account books.

Doing this, the bailiffs severed the books' connections to their medieval places of use. However, they also left clues about where the books came from. The first part of the project studies how the bailiffs operated with the help of a purpose-built database. With accurate understanding of the recycling process we can connect the book fragments with their medieval homes and turn them into meaningful historical evidence. 

In the second part of the project, we study select groups of manuscripts employing traditional palaeographical and codicological methods. Our goal is to understand the production and movement of liturgical books.

How, in practice, were the churches of the kingdom of Sweden supplied with books over the period stretching from the twelfth to the fifteenth century? Were books imported or made locally? Were their makers monks, nuns, itinerant craftsmen, or artisans established in major urban centres? Were books also penned by local priests and their helpers?