Who needs a system of sigla?

Does anyone actually find alphabetic sigla for manuscripts helpful, in a book? I’ve been sitting here trying to sort out Wormald’s system of sigla (for which the directory, for some reason, is on page 167, rather than sensibly at the beginning or end of the book), and listing manuscripts mentioned in other books which I may also have to add, and it occurs to me that the whole enterprise is more confusing than helpful.

There’s no central directory- so my manuscript, Cotton Nero A.i, is variously ‘G’, ‘I’ and ‘Y’, just in the books I have around me on the floor at the moment. A sensible option might be to refer to everything by it’s Ker catalogue number, but then what do you do with new books, or relevant books not in Anglo-Saxon? Individual sets of siglum, relevant to the topic at hand, are the only really tenable option. For it all to make sense, though, you have to presume that the reader is reading your whole book- and that’s an unrealistically optimistic outlook. Fact is, people pick up books and flick through them looking for the bits they need: unless your work is really relevant to them they’re not going to read the whole thing, and searching around for lists of siglum is a downright nuisance.

Me, even when I am reading a whole book, I get the alphabetical sigla horribly mixed up. Are we talking about MS G part i, or MS GI? Which one was MS O again? Personally, I’d be quite happy if books were routinely identified by a short form of their MS title. It’s hard to get confused about what ‘CCCC 201’ means, and personally I’d find it easier to remember the difference between ‘CCCC 201′ and CCCC 265’ than MS C and D. Perhaps it’s that the longer string of numbers turns on my pattern-retention reflex, which is actually pretty good.1

Does anyone else feel this way?

Of course, the CCCCs are a fairly simple example. If only we could call them 4C201… My manuscript, BL Cotton Nero A.i(B) is rather more problematic, though. I can’t call it Nero- there’s another legal text, Cotton Nero E.i, which I may have to refer to. I can’t call it Nero A.i, because I have to refer to the first part of the composite, Cotton Nero A.i(A). So that leaves me with Nero A.i(B), which is rather lengthy and perhaps contains too many different types of information to read smoothly (as opposed to the CCCCs, which contain only two pieces of information even though the shorthand is hardly short).

writingI could call it Nero B, as opposed to Nero A, and specify that any other Nero manuscripts will be reffered to by their full shelf/number/part designations. Or I could use a siglum- in which case, I’d have to use sigla for the whole lot. Or I could teach MS Word to autocomplete Nero A.i(B) and save me the bother of typing it out every time…

What do you think, people?
Which would be the least odious form to read?


1. Which is why I never forget a randomly generated pin number. Don’t ask me why I can’t remember my own mobile phone number, though.


Suggestions, anyone?

At college formal dinner tonight, I discovered that one of my new postgrad friends has recently been awarded the Queensland Fulbright Scholarship to study in the States next semester. She suggested that, in my process of Applying-For-Everything-Under-The-Sun over the next nine months or so, I ought to have a stab at a Fulbright, and a) offered to help me with applications and b) told me that the College’s Honorary Librarian, whom I conveniently know through working for the college library, is on NSW Fulbright committee or panel or whoever they are.

Since I do honestly intend to apply for everything under the sun, and I hadn’t thought about US study before, I’m asking for suggestions. If I wanted to do a one-year Masters program in either Anglo-Saxon studies or interdisciplinary Medieval Studies, where should I apply?
Furthermore- are international students able to take student loans in the States? (Obviously I’d try to secure further funding to cover fees, but it’s worth finding these things out…)

And does anyone know of a way to sell Medieval Studies as relevant and useful and liable to enrich relations between the US and Australia?