Research Field C
Each and every written artefact is unique. In many manuscript cultures, however, some written artefacts are assigned a special status, the status of an original, and such objects are given a higher value in many different ways: they are collected, bought and sold at high prices, carefully preserved, treated with respect and even awe; they have great efficacy in legal, religious, economic, literary and other contexts. Their special value may result from the materials employed, the special craftsmanship involved in their production, the person or persons responsible for them, or from the power associated with them. Any one of these characteristics may be sufficient to elevate an original above other written artefacts that circulate in a given culture, and which distinguishes it from oral texts, printed books and digital versions. The numerous types include autographs, art works, legal documents, letters, diaries, notes, test and experiment reports, minutes and proceedings, among many others. As different as these types are, they all share a specific relationship between the object and the various parties involved in its production, and between the object and the parties involved in its use or reception. Eventually, a plurality of people can be relevant in producing an original; we subsume these parties under the general term of originator.
The main objective of the Research Field ‘Creating Originals’ is to offer a historical and systematic description of the fundamental role of originals in shaping one of the most important cultural techniques, handwriting. Indeed, the manuscript – in the literal sense of the word and regardless of the medium used – has outlived the era of printing and continues to be of crucial importance even in the digital age. Adopting a comparative perspective, ‘Creating Originals’ will make a significant contribution to finding an answer to a fundamental question in the history of writing: Why does handwriting still persist after more than 5000 years?