An Annotated Bibliography on Monastic Sign Lexicons (MSL), Finger Alphabets and Mnemonics until 1600 CE.
Compiled by Ásfríðr Úlfvíðardóttir / Rebecca Lucas
Updated January 2012.
- Ambrose, Kirk. 2006. “A Medieval Food List from the Monastery of Cluny” in Gastronomica 6(1) pp.14-20
- Just as it implies, a list of all of the monastic signs used to indicate different foods from an 11th century manuscript at Cluny.
- Bakarat, Robert A. 1975. The Cistercian Sign Language (Cistercian Publications: Kalamazoo, Michigan)
- Discusses modern, 20th century monastic sign lexicon.
- Provides the best example of how the monastic sign systems were designed to hinder communication between hearing people, rather than improve communication for deaf people. It severely restricted idle chatter between monks as it is difficult to form complex sentences.
- Barley, Nigel F. “Two Anglo Saxon Sign Systems Compared” in Semiotica Volume 12 (1974) pp. 227-237
also in: Umiker-Seboek, Jean and Seboek, Thomas A. [eds] Monastic Sign Languages (Mouton de Gruyter: Berlin 1987) ISBN: 3-11-010927-1 pp. 53-66
- Discusses monastic signs and memory aides
- Has a different manuscript of the Monisteriales Indicia, with pictures of monks making the hand signs.
- Saint Benedict (of Nursia) Regula Benedicti (The Rule of St. Benedict) 5-6th century CE.
- The founder of western monasticism, Benedict wrote about the need for silence in the monastary at certain times and in certain places.
- Chapters of note when discussing MSL and silence include chapters 6 (On Silence) 38 (On the Weekly Reader), 42 (That No One Speaks after Compline)
- Online, including transcriptions of Latin and medieval editions at: http://www.osb.org/rb/index.html
- Bonet, John Pablo Reducción de las letras y arte para enseñar a hablar a los mudos (Simplification of the Letters of the Alphabet and Method of Teaching Deaf-Mutes to Speak) (1620)
- Bragg, Lois “Visual-Kinetic Communication in Europe Before 1600: A Survey of Sign Lexicons and Finger Alphabets Prior to the Rise of Deaf Education” Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education 2:1 Winter 1997
- Highly recommended read.
- Discusses monastic sign lexicons
- Mentions a finger alphabet published in 1592 which is almost identical to the modern one-handed 'international alphabet' of today.
- Bruce, Scott Gordon Uttering no human sound: Silence and sign language in western medieval monasticism. (Ann Arbor, Mich. : U.M.I. 2000) [Princeton Univ. Dissertation]
- This is the bible of monastic sign language. Not only does it focus entirely on the social aspects of MSL, the appendices in the back contain translations of every extant sign list I know of. Amazing!
- Bruce, Scott G. Silence and Sign Language in Medieval Monasticism: The Cluniac Tradition, c.900–1200 (Cambridge: University Press, 2007) ISBN: 0-521-86080-6
- More polished, publication based on PhD thesis. Appendices not as large as original thesis.
- Carruthers, Mary J. The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990)
- Focus on finger alphabets and gestures as mnemonic devices.
- Conde-Silvestre, Juan C. The code and context of monasteriales indicia: a semiotic analysis of late Anglo-Saxon monastic sign language. Studia Anglica Posnaniensia (36) 2001. pp. 145-169
- Daniels, Marilyn Benedictine Roots in the Development of Deaf Education (Bergin & Garvney: Westport, USA, 1997)
- Discusses from biblical era onwards, the perceptions of deafness and legal rights.
- Argues that Pedro Ponce de Leon successfully taught deaf students to speak through monastic sign language.
- p.14 Finger spelling possibly used by Ponce may have been based on system devised by Melchor Yebra.
- Chapter three describes how Juan Pablo Bonet taught students in the 17th century.
- Delaporte, Yves and Shaw, Emily "Geasture and signs through history" Gesture 9(1) 2009 pp. 35=60
- Main focus is 18th century French sign language, but briefly discusses a 15th century gesture used in hearing culture that has been adopted into LSF and ASL.
- Eriksson, Per The History of Deaf People (Daufr: Sweden, 1993) ISBN: 91-630-6822-2
- Different drawing of Bedes’ counting system, than the pictures usually used.
- Jarecki, Walter "Signa loquendi: Die cluniacensischen Signa-Listen" Saecula Spiritalia, IV (Baden Baden: Koerner, 1981) ISBN: 3873204045
- German language
- Is source for majority of Bruce's MSL lists.
- Kinder, Terryl N. "Cistercian Europe : architecture of contemplation" (Grand Rapids, Michigan: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2002) pp.58-9
- Briefly discusses monstic sign lexicons, but is also one of the best summaries of the lexicons used in Cistercian monastaries.
- Kluge, F. "Zur Geschichte der Zeichensprache. Angelsächsische Indicia Monasterialia" Internationale Zeitschrift für allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft 2 (1885) pp. 117-140
- German translation of the the Indicia Monasterialia (Cotton.Tiberius.A.III).
- Also has transcribed 15th century Syon list.
- Available online at the Internet Archive
- Kylie, JG and Woll, B. Sign Language: The Study of Deaf People and Their Language (Cambridge, New York : Cambridge Univ. Pr. 1985) ISBN: 0-521-26075-2
- p.51 The finger spelling published in 1680, Digiti lingua, is very close to British (and associated languages) finger spelling.
Note:Every other reference says Digiti lingua was published 1698.
- Lee, Raymond [ed] A Beginner’s Guide to Deaf History (British Deaf History Society: Doncaster UK, 2004)
- Lots of pictures, is a good overview of history.
- pp.1-8: general history
- pp. 9-23: development of manual communication, including lots of pictures from manuscripts about manual alphabets.
- Macedo, Hispe Rivair. "Os Signa Loquendi do Mosteiro de Alcobaça" [The Signa Loquendi of the Monastery of Alcobaça] Revista Domínios da Imagem 1:2 2008. pp.89-100
- Macedo, José Rivair. "Disciplina do silêncio e comunicação gestual: os signa loquendi de Alcobaça." [The discipline of silent and gestural communication: the signa loquendi of Alcobaça] SIGNUM:
Revista da ABREM 5. (2003) pp.88-107.
- Appears to include a comparison of similarities in signs used in English and Portuguese sources. See also (Matins 1958), (Reily 2007) and (Macedo 2008).
- Available online at: http://www.pem.ifcs.ufrj.br/Signa.pdf
- Matins, Mário. "Livros de Sinais dos Cistercienses Portugueses" [Books of the signs of Portuguese Cistercians] Boletim de Filologia 17. (1958) pp. 293-357.
- Includes transcriptions of (dating according to Reily) the 15th century Livro de Sinais de Alcobaça 218 and the 16th century Livro de Sinais Cód. Alc. 91. My Portuguese is not good enough to fully understand what the article itself says.
- See also Reily (2007) for a literature review, and Macedo (2003) for a comparison of the Portuguese sources with English sign lists.
- Available online via Biblioteca Digital Camões
- Meyvaert, Paul "The Medieval Monastic Garden" in Elisabeth B. MacDougall [ed.] Medieval Gardens (Washington, D.C. : Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1986) pp. 23-54
- Some signs from the Hirsau sign list directly mentioned in the footnotes.
- Owen-Crocker, Gale R., Dress in Anglo-Saxon England [revised ed.], (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2004)
- Uses MSL signs to argue how clothing, including veils, were worn.
- Padden, Carol and Gunsauls, Darlene Clark “How the Alphabet Came to be Used in a Sign Language” in Sign Language Studies (4:1, 2003) pp. 10-33
- Focus of the article is on finger spelling, and its’ development through history.
- Main interest is 19-20th centuries, but does mention up to 1600.
- Penna, Mario "I 'Signa Loquendi' Cisterciensi in un Codice della Bibliotheca National di Madrid" in J Umiker-Seboek and TA Sebeok [eds.] Monastic sign languages. (New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1987) pp. 495-532
- Italian Language
- Translation of the 11th century Cluniac sign list.
- For English-language translations, see Ambrose (2006), Bruce (2000) or Bruce (2007)
- Plann, Susan “Pedro Ponce de Leon: Myth and Reality” in John Vickery Van Cleve [ed] Deaf History Unveiled (Gallaudet University Press: Washington DC, 1993) pp. 1-12 ISBN: 1563680211
- Plann, Susan A Silent Minority: Deaf Education in Spain, 1550-1835 (University of California Press: Berkeley, 1997)
- Reily, Lucia "O papel da Igreja nos primórdios da educação dos surdos" [The role of the Church in the origins of deaf education] Revista Brasileira de Educação 12:35 2007. pp. 308-326.
- A literature review covering early education of the deaf, with information about 15th and 16th century Portuguese-language sign lists used in Cistercian monasteries. See Matins (1958) and Macedo (2003) for more information about Portuguese sources.
- Available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1413-24782007000200011
- Romberch, Johann Host von Congestorium Artificiose Memorie (1533)
- Originally published in 1520
- Is full of grids of 'memorial heuristics' of variations upon each letter of the alphabet, and its' possible representation. Along with animals, such as A for Aquila (eagle), and shapes of tools (C is a horseshoe) there is also a section devoted to shapes made with ones' hands.
- Available online at the National Library of France
- Saint-Loup, Aude de “Images of the Deaf in Medieval Western Europe” in Renate Fischer et.al. Looking Back: A Reader on the History of Deaf Communities and their Sign Languages (Signum Verlag: Germany,1993)
- Lots of pictures, including artwork showing how people counted on their fingers.
- Schein, Jerome D. Speaking the Language of Sign (Doubleday: Garden City, N.Y., 1984.)
- Discusses Pedro Ponce de Leon
- Schmitt, J.-C. “The rationale of gestures in the West: Third to thirteenth centuries.” In J. Bremmer & H. Roodenburg, H. [Eds.], A cultural history of gesture. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 1992) pp. 59-70
- Sherlock, David. “Anglo-Saxon monastic sign language at Christ Church, Canterbury”. Archaeologia Cantiana, 107, 1989: 1-27.
- Sherlock, David Signs for silence: The sign language of the monks of Ely in the Middle Ages. (Ely Cathedral Publications: Cambridgeshire, 1992.
- I have only been able to ILL-request part of this publication, however it includes a sign list written in modern English.
- Umiker-Seboek, Jean and Seboek, Thomas A. [eds] Monastic Sign Languages (Mouton de Gruyter: Berlin 1987) ISBN: 3-11-010927-1
- This book has copies of articles and translations from numerous sources, including the Brigittine sign list from Syon.
- Vickrey van Cleve, John and Crouch, Barry A. A Place of their Own (Gallaudet University Press: Washington DC 1989 )
- Focuses on Deaf history, but discusses de Yebra's fingerspelling from his 1593 Refugium Infirmorum.