The patron and makers of the Vernon manuscript would not have intended it for a large audience. The manuscript’s large size suggests it may have been intended for use on a lectern, perhaps for reading aloud, or for display. At most its expected audience can have been no more than a household or community and its visitors.
Perhaps the Simeon manuscript was modelled on or in part copied from the Vernon manuscript. But copying manuscripts was slow work, and reproduction of a book in many copies not something for which this technology was designed. The manuscript was never intended to be reproduced for a wider audience.
From the eighteenth century, scholars began to publish texts or extracts of Vernon texts in print. But it was only with the advent of photography that facsimile reproduction of the volume became possible, and a photographic print was issued by D. S. Brewer in 1988. The technical demands and expense of this operation were such that the print is monochrome and in reduced scale. Copies of the printed facsimile are owned by some of the major research libraries, and by a few individuals.
Today, digitisation has transformed the Vernon manuscript from a book that only a very few will ever have the opportunity to interact with, to one that is potentially accessible to anyone who has the use of a computer. The method used to make the digital facsimile of the Vernon is one in which data is captured in image and text. This method provides high-resolution visual detail linked with a full transcription and description of every page. By this means the huge amount of data in the manuscript is captured and made available for use in computer applications.
The digitised files are already being used by researchers to produce new insights into the Vernon manuscript. As more manuscripts are digitised knowledge of the medieval book will be transformed. For the future, digital manuscript studies offers a quality of access to medieval heritage unimaginable in any previous period.
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