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What We Know We Know

Now that the English Manuscripts Project is close to its completion, what do we know that we know?

In the previous paper, Mary introduced you to how our manuscript description looks, what we have discovered by making a list of manuscripts, by clustering the manuscripts, and by describing the manuscripts.

This is an example of the detailed case study of CUL Ii.1.33.

In addition to the standard descriptions, we also decided to investigate some manuscripts in greater detail. In today's presentation, I would like to talk about what we have discovered through these detailed case studies of the manuscripts.

The detailed entries in our catalogue include all the information available in the descriptions, and also:

New findings were brought to light by looking at the manuscripts holistically, instead of focusing on them solely from a textual point of view. From a codicological perspective, Orietta's detailed case study of CUL Ii.1.33 includes interesting discoveries about mise-en-page and compilation methods: quiring, pricking, ruling patterns. Orietta has revised our understanding of the sequence of production and writing of the manuscript; we've renumbered its scribes and have refined the picture of how they interact with each other; and we've been able to see the sorts of textual worlds in which they were trained, and in which they're probably accustomed to operating.

We've also made some interesting studies of scribes who work on manuscripts over long periods of time; long enough for their scripts to change. Elaine already noted this phenomenon in her 1998 paper on Corpus 367, we can now see it as a much more common phenomenon in manuscript production, and one of our major example here would be Vespasian D. xiv, on which Elaine has produced a detailed case study.

Place and Date: Where and when was this material produced? Issues to be addressed here will include an identification of all known scriptoria; an identification of all scriptoria known to have produced texts in English; an assessment of how accurately we can date the relevant manuscripts; the ascertaining of who the scribes were (professional, amateur, monastic, other religious, secular); and an analysis of whether, how far, and for how long scribes and manuscripts might have travelled between scriptoria.

We probably thought that we would be able to work out most of this, but of course what we've learned is just how insecure are the grounds for most localisation of individual manuscripts. This means that we're acutely aware that the map of production places is wrong, but we're not yet clear about how it should look. So this particular initial assertion on our part was a sign of laudable, but probably doomed, ambition!

Orietta's paper in Literature Compass is one of the most important contributions here for what it shows about the state of our knowledge. Of the list of potential scriptoria, we have unambiguous evidence of only a very few copying English. For Elaine, this may confirm her theory of an 'organised literary resistance'; for Mary, it reinforces the need to make sure that the map we're using is accurate, by working out whether we're failing to identify the productions of other places which aren't on the usual map, or institutions in places we already have on the map, and whether we're over-ascribing manuscripts to some of the larger production centres.

On the question of resources, we've been able to show that there is much more flexibility with resources and production than had been assumed to be the case. We can show that it's relatively common for a manuscript to be begun at some stage and then picked up and worked on further at a later stage. Key examples we've worked on are CUL Ii.1.33Auct F. 4. 32Faustina A. x, and Hatton 116.

The localization of manuscripts also begs questions about scribal mobility and its relationship to scribal training. I have described a particularly interesting case-study for this in my work on CUL Ii.2.11. The Gospels in CUL Ii.2.11 are all written in a very distinct Exeter hand, but from my close study of the hands which added the manumissions to the manuscript, what was striking was their variety and the fact that one of them shows characteristics usually associated with Worcester manuscripts.

Agenda: Is there an identifiable programme of copying in English, or is it, in comparison to the copying of Latin and Anglo-Norman texts, a marginal activity? Who approved of, and paid for, the copying of texts in English? What resources were given over to this activity?

Every individual manuscript we've worked on in detail has shown us unequivocally that copying in English is seriously resourced, in terms of time, materials, skilled personnel, and sometimes we've seen activity which implies organised teamwork. CCCC 383CUL Ii.1.33 and CCCC 303 the key examples of this.

And, moreover, we have seen (through Elaine's and Mary's work on inter-scriptorial exchange) that the movement of vernacular manuscripts is much more significant than we previously recognised, and that this very much complicates the picture. It would be fruitful for someone to go on to analyse French manuscripts alongside English ones, specifically, to test whether there is more conformity to Latin manuscript production practices in the making of French manuscripts than in the making of English ones. Examples which will be particularly important for this are Bodley 343 and Vespasian A. xxii, where the mise-en-page shifts from the typically English-language-text single column to the double column format more common in Latin and French texts.

Use and Audience: Who had access to manuscripts, and how accessible were manuscript repositories? Who, in general, are the different types of religious materials aimed at, and at whom, specifically, are English religious texts (the bulk of English texts that survive) directed?

Here, we think we've made progress too, through our detailed work on individual manuscripts. In this, we've been able to get insight into the sorts of people who've used our manuscripts and written in and on them. For example, the CUL Ii.1.33 scribe who writes very heavily abbreviated Latin marginal notes must be absolutely steeped in liturgical practices and liturgical textual production. This particular example tells us about one layer of users/readers, but not about wider intended readerships/audiences. The question of immediate usership has been a most considerable advance through our work even if, in most of the cases we've studied, the issue of audience is as vexed as ever. What we've seen, too, is where these manuscripts seem not to have been required by later users, not produced and used, and that's important too.

CUL. Kk.3.18

A detailed study of CUL Kk.3.18, a Worcester manuscript, together with the mapping and clustering of the manuscripts, have addressed our questions about Agenda, Use and Audience.

English Books in Worcester before the twelfth century

Out of the 54 manuscripts surviving from the Worcester Library before the twelfth century, 22 are written all or partly in English. 6 manuscripts in English and 3 in English and Latin date from the first half of the eleventh century. 3 more manuscripts, ascribed to Worcester and written in English or English and Latin, are dated to the middle of the eleventh century. The other 10 manuscripts in English from Worcester were written in the second half of the eleventh century. Only 6 Worcester manuscripts surviving from the second half of the eleventh century are written entirely in Latin.

These are the 10 manuscripts from the second half of the eleventh century, taken from our Project list. The tradition of copying manuscripts in English in Worcester seems to have become even stronger in the second half of the eleventh century. Scholarship on the post-Conquest production of Old English manuscripts at Worcester has usually made a connection with the tenure of Wulfstan II, and in particular with his reputed interest in English-language preaching and pastoral work.

Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica

CUL Kk.3.18 is a copy of English translation of Bede's Historia Eccesiastica; the work in which Bede gave the inhabitants of Anglo-Saxon England a unity and identity as 'the people or nation of the English'. It is, then, probably not surprising that his book was the most popular in the twelfth century; the century after the Conquest.

According to the Hand-List of Bede Manuscripts, there are approximately 160 surviving manuscripts of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica, and 31% of them were copied in the twelfth century. The hand-list also estimates that 70% of the extant manuscripts were copied in England.

Some scholars suggest that, because of the Scandinavian raids and the conquests, monasticism in Northumbria had been extinguished by 1066. Post-Conquest monastic activity after 1066 is narrated by Anglo-Norman historians as connected to Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica. They report that, moved by reading of Bede's Historia, monks were determined to restore monasticism in Northumbria to its former glories, and they successfully restored monasticism in Monkwearmouth, Jarrow, Tynemouth, Melrose, Whitby, Lastingham, Hackness, York, Lindisfarne and Durham. As with other such texts, it is likely that the accounts summarised here will suppress evidence of continuity in order to present a picture of reform and renewal, just as Bede himself did in his narration of the Augustinian mission.

English translation

Compared to the numerous extant copies of the Historia Ecclesiastica in Latin, it is rather surprising to find out that there are not many manuscripts of its English translation.

In fact, only surviving five manuscripts contain the full text of English translation of Bede's Historia, and four of them are from the tenth or eleventh centuries. CUL Kk.3.18 is the only extant manuscript which was copied between 1060 and 1220.

And it is probably not surprising that this manuscript was copied in Worcester, where it is said that the movement of restoring monasticism in Northumbria had its origins. The monks responsible for this restoration seem mostly to have come from the diocese of Worcester, an English diocese in which, even after the Norman Conquest, the English church remained under Anglo-Saxon control. So it might be possible that the manuscript was intended to augment the reputation of the Anglo-Saxon church in order to help protect its traditions against the new Norman rules.

How was it made?

The length of the Historia Ecclesiastica is substantial - CUL Kk.3.18 has 99 folios, for example - and it seems that the Historia Ecclesiastica was usually copied by several scribes; this is certainly the case for virtually all the extant English manuscripts of the Historia Ecclesiastica:

  • Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 41 was written in 2 parts simultaneously by 2 hands.
  • We know that Cotton Ottho B. xi + B. x was copied by at least 3 hands, and there might have been more.
  • Tanner 10 was copied by 5 hands, and
  • Oxford Corpus Christi College 279 by 3.

The one exception here is CUL Kk.3.18. The whole of the main text in this manuscript was copied by a single hand.

This scribe is sometimes thought to be Hemming, a monk of Worcester, although some scholars disagree. This hand might not have pleased Ker's aesthetic eye, as he describes it as 'a regular, stiff, and rather ugly hand'. It is, however, certainly a very regular hand, relatively round with a broad horizontal spread, and Miller concedes that it is 'neat'.

The same scribe contributed to the copying of other books, including:

Whether this scribe was indeed Hemming, he or she was certainly very active, and was very much working with clear sight of a changing cultural context. As Tinti argues (p. 259), Hemming's Cartulary might have been made with a primarily political intention, probably related to the 'insecurity brought about by the Norman Conquest'. Many entries are constructed to prove the point that some lands used to belong to certain monks, and this manuscript is currently understood as a commemorative, historical volume, not a working administrative tool.

But keep in mind that this scribe only partly contributed to the making of other manuscripts.:

  • CCCC 146, pp. iii, iv, 1-60, 319-30 (Some additions by this scribe. This manuscript came to Worcester from Winchester.)
  • CCCC 391, pp. 601-03, 611-12 (This scribe also wrote Latin texts on pp. 597-612.)
  • Tiberius A. xiii, fols 119-25 and some additions
  • Harley Charter 83. A. 3
  • Hatton 114, fol. 246v/2- 246v
  • Junius 121, fols 2v-3 and parts of 'An Easter Day Homily' (fols 148v-54v)

CUL Kk.3.18 is the only manuscript in which this scribe copied the entire main text from beginning to end. It's reasonable to assume, therefore, that this scribe was particularly committed to this work.

CUL Kk.3.18. was certainly very carefully designed: this is fol. 8v, Opening of Book I.

  • Rustic capitals are used for the incipit and book headings. The letter size gradually changes from larger to smaller. Chapter numbers given throughout the text are probably by the main scribe too. The capitals are distinctive, and they are written in calligraphic script.
  • The main hand added alterations and glosses interlineally throughout. I have identified about 180 additions to be by the main scribe, but sometimes it is hard to be certain if an individual addition is by the main scribe, particularly when the addition was a single letter.

The manuscript was meant to be opened and read. This is the only copy of Historia Ecclesiastica with running titles which make the book user-friendly. These were possibly added by a different hand. One scribe who used this manuscript seems to have treated it with extra care. The Latin gloss to this page is by a neat and pointed early-thirteenth-century hand, and this hand seems also to have ruled the lines for the gloss.

We also know that the manuscript was used by Coleman, and by the Tremulous Hand, the anchor scribes for Worcester manuscripts. The question of anchor scribes is worth scrutinizing further. There is insecurity of localisation - we only think that the Tremulous Hand is in Worcester because we think the manuscripts that the scribe annotates were made in Worcester, and that risks becoming a circular argument. Perhaps once even more detailed work has been done on all the relevant manuscripts, our localization of them will be more secure.

We know, then, that this manuscript was created by one of the anchor scribes in Worcester, and was used by two other anchor scribes after a period of time. This book was created because it was necessary, and it had some sort of agenda - as is the case for all the manuscripts we've worked on.

Whether CUL Kk.3.18 was produced with a big political agenda is another question for further work. Our detailed case study and the mapping of the manuscript within the corpus of our electronic catalogue certainly address the research questions which our Project articulated 5 years ago, right at the beginning. Our detailed work on the manuscripts in the Project's catalogue is leading us back to these sorts of big questions again and again, and making us reassess what we thought we knew about post-Conquest Old English textual culture. The completion of the Project in August 2010, therefore, isn't an end at all. Our project material and research questions, we hope, will be used and re-used again and again beyond the completion of the Project.

By Orietta Da Rold and Takako Kato