The Visual Text: Bibliographic Codes as Pragmatic Markers on a Manuscript Page

Open access


This paper explores the dynamics of the textual-visual interface of a medieval manuscript page within the frameworks of historical pragmatics and pragmaphilological approaches to the study of historical texts. Whilst the former focuses on the contexts in which historical utterances, manifested as texts, occur (Jacobs & Jucker 1995: 11), the latter involves a context-based perspective in the study of individual historical texts (Jucker 2000: 91). Combining the two approaches allows for a more comprehensive study of the “visual text” (cf. Machan 2011) than has been possible for paleographic, codicological, or linguistic analyses of medieval manuscripts. The present paper adopts the “pragmatics-on-the-page” approach (cf. Carroll et al. 2013, Peikola et al. 2014) in its analysis of bibliographic codes in British Library Royal MS 18 D II, which contains the texts of Lydgate’s Troy Book and Siege of Thebes. Such visual elements of the manuscript page as mise en page, ink colour, as well as type and size of script will be examined as pragmatic markers, functioning on three levels of meaning: textual, interactional, and metalinguistic (cf. Erman 2001, Carroll et al. 2013), and providing (visual) contexts for interpreting the linguistic message of the text.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • British Library MS Royal D II 18 <>

  • Carroll Ruth Matti Peikola Hanna Salmi Mari-Lisa Varila Janne Skaffari & Risto Hiltunen. 2013. Pragmatics on the Page. Visual text in late medieval English books. European Journal of English Studies 17.1. 54–71.

  • Erman Britt. 2001. Pragmatic markers revisited with a focus on “you know” in adult and adolescent talk. Journal of Pragmatics 33.9. 1337–1359.

  • Jacobs Andreas & Andreas H. Jucker. 1995. Introduction. In Andreas H. Jucker (ed.) Historical pragmatics: Pragmatic developments in the history of English 3–33. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

  • Jucker Andreas H. 2000. English historical pragmatics: Problems of data and methodology. In Gabriella di Martino & Maria Lima (eds.) English diachronic pragmatics 17–55. Napoli: CUEN.

  • Jucker Andreas H. & Päivi Pahta. 2011. Communicating manuscripts: Authors scribes readers listeners and communicating characters. In Päivi Pahta & Andreas H. Jucker (eds.) Communicating early English manuscripts 3–10. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Machan Tim William. 2011. The visual pragmatics of code-switching in Late Middle English literature. In Herbert Schendl & Laura Wright (eds.) Code-switching in early English 303–333. Berlin and Boston: Mouton de Gruyter.

  • Peikola Matti Mari-Liisa Varila Carla Suhr Janne Skaffari Hanna Salmi Aleksi Mäkilähde Risto Hiltunen & Ruth Carroll. 2014. Pragmatics on the Page (PoP). <>

  • Twyman Michael. 1998. The British Library guide to printing: History and techniques. London: The British Library.

Journal information
Impact Factor

Cite Score 2018: 0.08

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.1
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.095

Cited By
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 196 91 3
PDF Downloads 134 84 2