Codicology (/ˌkdɪˈkɒləi/;[1] from French codicologie; from Latin codex, genitive codicis, "notebook, book" and Greek -λογία, -logia) is the study of codices or manuscript books. It is often referred to as "the archaeology of the book,"[2] a term coined by François Masai.[3] It concerns itself with the materials, tools and techniques used to make codices, along with their features.[4]

Reims gospel book

The demarcation of codicology is not clear-cut. Some view codicology as a discipline complete in itself, while others see it as auxiliary to textual criticism analysis and transmission, which is studied by philology.[2][5] Codicologists may also study the history of libraries, manuscript collecting, book cataloguing, and scribes, which otherwise belongs to the history of the book.[2][5] Some codicologists say that their field encompasses palaeography, the study of handwriting, while some palaeographers say that their field encompasses codicology. The study of written features such as marginalia, glosses, ownership inscriptions, etc. falls in both camps, as does the study of the physical aspects of decoration, which otherwise belongs to art history.[citation needed] Unlike traditional palaeography, codicology places more emphasis on the cultural aspect of books.[6] The focus on material is referred to as stricto sensu codicology, while a broader approach, incorporating palaeography, philology, art history, and the history of the book, is referred to as lato sensu codicology, and the exact meaning depends on the codicologist's view.[7][8]

Palaeographic techniques are used along with codicological techniques. Analysis of the work of the scribe, script styles and their variations, may reveal the book's character, value, purpose, date, and the importance attached to its different parts.[9]

Many incunabula, books printed up to the year 1500, were finished wholly or partly by hand, so they belong to the domain of codicology.[10]

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