In Voices on Birchbark Jos Schaeken explores the major role that writing on birchbark – an ephemeral, even ‘throw-away’ form of correspondence and administration – played in the vibrant medieval merchant city of Novgorod and other cities in the Russian Northwest. Birchbark literacy was crucial to the organization of Novgorodian society; it was integrated into a huge variety of activities and had a broad social basis; it was used extensively by the laity, by women as well as men, by villagers as well as landlords. Voices on Birchbark is the first book-length study of this unique corpus in English. By examining a representative selection of birchbark texts, Jos Schaeken presents fascinating vignettes of daily medieval life and a holistic picture of the pragmatics of communication in pre-modern societies.
Jos Schaeken, PhD (1962), Leiden University, is Professor of Slavic and Baltic languages and cultural history at that university. He has published several monographs and many articles in the field of Slavic philology, including Old Church Slavonic and Old Russian.
"Jos Schaeken has produced a subtle, impressively thorough (despite its brevity) and up-to-date guide to an important, intriguing and deceptively complex set of sources. His book is a very welcome addition to the lamentably limited English-language bibliography of the subject."
-Simon Franklin, Clare College, University of Cambridge in Journal of Historical Sociolinguistics, 2019
"Le livre de J. Schaeken est une belle et multifacette représentation de tout le corpus des documents sur écorce de bouleau."
-Timofey V. Guimon in Cahiers de civilisation Médiévale, 2019
All interested in the language and culture of medieval Russia and the international merchant city of Novgorod, and anyone concerned with the role of written communication in pre-modern societies.