The British Academy announces 2023-24 Neil Ker Memorial Fund awards to promote the study of Western medieval manuscripts

28 Mar 2024

Close-up of aged manuscript pages

The British Academy has announced seven recipients of the 2023-24 Neil Ker Memorial Fund awards.

The fund was established by the family and friends of Neil R Ker FBA to promote the study of Western medieval manuscripts, particularly those of interest to scholars in Britain. The awards enable investigation of their production (including decoration), readership and use.

Ker was a scholar of Anglo-Saxon literature, best known for his milestone 1957 work Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon.

The 2023-24 Neil Ker Memorial Fund awards:

Please note: Awards are arranged alphabetically by surname of the grant recipient. The institution is that given at the time of application.

Dr Venetia Bridges


Untimely Inheritances and Inconvenient Truths: The Literary Construction of the Later Middle Ages

Durham University

Value Awarded: £1480

Abstract: Literary histories of the medieval era in Europe are commonly defined by language change, so that the movement away from transnational languages (Latin and French) towards the development of ‘national’ vernaculars (like English) become a means of describing and dividing the millennium c.650–1550. Yet this approach yokes together language, nation and culture in ways that are anachronistic for much of this pre-nation state, multilingual period. The apparent ‘triumph of English’ in the later Middle Ages in Britain overlooks the fact that Latin and French continue to be important languages of literature in these islands for centuries to come. Whilst these languages’ continued existence is increasingly noted in scholarship (Butterfield 2009; Ashe 2017), the evidence of the material record is still to be identified and interpreted. Untimely Inheritances is a starting point in this endeavour, focusing on the influence of 12th-century material in the later Middle Ages.

Dr Anthony Harris


An Extended Digital Catalogue for Oxford, Bodleian Library 309 (Vendôme, c. 1075 – c. 1346): Construction, Contents, Scholarship, Authorship, Audience, and Use

University of Cambridge

Value Awarded: £2462

Abstract: Oxford, Bodleian Library 309 (Vendôme, c. 1075 – c. 1346), now 'S309', is a significant manuscript in the field of medieval computus (Easter calculation). From Jones (1937), 'By a study of [S309] we can in large part recover the computus used by Bede and his forerunners'. S309 spans 165 folios and includes examples of almost every calendar and Easter table variant from the medieval period (plus associated letters and texts). Yet, it has lacked the same level of intense scholarly attention such as that given to MS Oxford, St John's College 17 by Wallis (see This research project will address this deficiency by digitising and then cataloguing each folio in S309, using Ker's 'extended' catalogue style. Catalogue entries will link to existing scholarship as well as detailing known history, production, function, and construction (including mathematics) of each item of computus, to help determine ideas of authorship, audience, and use.

Professor Alfred Hiatt


The Medieval Manuscripts of the Antonine Itinerary

Queen Mary University of London

Value Awarded: £1133

Abstract: This project is a study of the manuscript history of the Antonine Itinerary, one of the most important geographical texts to survive classical antiquity. Examination of medieval manuscripts of the Itinerary will enable a history of the medieval and early modern reception of the Itinerary to be written for the first time. The proposed programme of research envisages the examination of key manuscripts in continental European libraries, including material not available online.

Dr Michael Johnston


The Popular Literature of Medieval England: The Production and Readership of The Prick of Conscience.

Purdue University

Value Awarded: £2000

Abstract: Judging by the number of surviving manuscripts, The Prick of Conscience was the most popular piece of verse from medieval England. Yet its manuscript tradition has been largely ignored by scholars. To remedy this, I am developing a catalogue of all 128 manuscripts, detailing their materials, quire structures, scribes, marginal glosses, reader marginalia, and history of ownership. Chaucer, Gower, Langland, Rolle—all the major authors of late medieval England—have catalogues of their manuscripts, and thus my catalogue seeks to bring The Prick of Conscience into alignment with its contemporaries. In several previous research trips, I examined all of the manuscripts in Cambridge and most of the manuscripts in London. In Summer 2024, I propose spending two months in the UK, where I will complete my in-situ examination of the remaining manuscripts, working in London, Oxford and in more remote libraries (e.g., Aberystwyth, Arundel Castle, Chetham’s Library, Leeds University).

Dr Nicholas Karn


The Production of Forgery at Westminster Abbey, 1000–1150

University of Southampton

Value Awarded: £1520

Abstract: The twelfth century has long been recognised as a golden age of forgery, in which many charters and related documents were fabricated. One of the largest collections of British interest is that from Westminster Abbey, but there is no overview of forgery there. Work has been structured around chronological divides such as 1066, or has focussed on one prolific scribe who wrote some of the later forgeries. This project will examine how forgery was produced at Westminster as a whole, looking across the period and at all the forgers and forgeries represented there. It will integrate analysis of script, format and sealing of the forgeries and their models, to understand the chronology and management of forgery and how it was carried out. This will provide the first study of the forged writs and charters from Westminster as a whole.

Professor Kari Anne Rand


The Index of Middle English Prose: Manuscripts in the Collections of Magdalene College, Cambridge

Independent Scholar

Value Awarded: £1865

Abstract: The book will be published by Boydell & Brewer in their IMEP series. It will identify and describe all Middle English prose texts (c.1200–1500) in Magdalene, both those in the Pepys Library and those which were in the College when it received Samuel Pepys’s bequest (Old Library manuscripts). It will contain an introduction on the history of the two collections and an itemised contents list. The openings (incipits) and endings (explicits) of the prose items will be transcribed, and accounts of their textual history, of versions of the same text in other manuscript collections, and of editions, will be included. References to published descriptions of the manuscripts, to their probable dates, and to their dialect and provenance will be given. The volume will contain five indexes. These will later be merged with those from all IMEP volumes already published, in the cumulative digital index on Cambridge University Library’s website.

Dr Eric Weiskott


William Langland, Piers Plowman: A New Annotated Edition of the A-text, ed. Eric Weiskott

Boston College

Value Awarded: £1740

Abstract: I have a contract from University of Exeter Press to produce a student edition of the earliest version of William Langland’s late fourteenth-century dream vision Piers Plowman, a poem that stands at the center of my ongoing research and professional activities. Langland was a contemporary of Chaucer. The work of editing involves consulting medieval manuscripts and modern editions and reading widely in published scholarship on the poem. The edition is due to the press by 31 December 2024. This grant application is to support travel to institutional repositories holding manuscript copies of Langland's A-text.

The awards listed are those for the 2023-24 round of Neil Ker Memorial Fund awards. Previous award announcements can be found on the Neil Ker Memorial Fund past awards page.

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