Dr. April Harper delivered the opening paper at the Gender, Memory and Documentary Culture conference held June 28-29, 2019 at the John Rylands Research Institute in Manchester, UK.
Her paper on “Translating and transcribing the generations: medical texts, masculinity and the formation of physicians networks” focused on the rich information to be found in the colophons (ex libris signatures and information) written on the frontispieces of medieval Arabic manuscripts, detailing ownership, reading schedules, examination/licensing, travel, religious, and personal relationships of the owners of the manuscripts.
Dr. Harper has found this colophonic tradition is almost unique to Arabic manuscript tradition, with the exception of a 14th century Western European Flemish text. Using this information, Dr. Harper has been able to reconstruct the personal networks of physicians across broad generational and geographical distances. Her paper goes on to challenge why Western European texts did not embrace this tradition and what the information from the one Flemish text may reveal as to this documentary silence in the European record.