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EM in Context

The Project set out with a major undertaking; it began with the identification of those manuscripts that contain English texts, including annotations, glosses and commentaries, and delivers a catalogue with contextual material which is published electronically online. The work by the project's team provides scholars with newly collected evidence available from the period under consideration; it has also developed new lines of enquiries and has participated in the scholarly debate on centres of production, scribes, type of manuscripts and texts, codicological and palaeographical features, audience(s) and relationship among languages. In this paper I wish to outline why this research is crucial and where the project places itself within this scholarly debate, providing a contextualization of the textual culture which produced and used documents and codices in English between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries.

The chronological remit of the project is challenging and thought-provoking. We start our census at circa 1060 and finish at 1220. There are no cultural or historical reasons for choosing these temporal termini; rather, they represent a desire to break away from the accepted chronological boundaries and the acknowledged labels, which have resulted in the neglect of manuscripts dated 1060 to 1220. During this one hundred and eighty years important political, religious and cultural changes took place, permeating English society. It may be useful to remind ourselves of these changes before discussing in detail the question of manuscript production and use.

The historical milestones of the period are well known. In 1060, we are in the eighteenth year of the reign of Edward the Confessor; in 1066 William of Normandy defeats Harold, Earl of Wessex, at Hastings. Thus, the link between England and the continent, Normandy in particular, becomes explicitly political as well as cultural. The reigns of William Rufus (1060-1100; acc. 1087) and Henry I (1068-1135; acc. 1100) follow, and lead to another power struggle over the English crown in the second quarter of the twelfth century. In 1135 Henry I dies without a male heir, and leaves the throne to his daughter Matilda, who is married to Geoffrey, count of Anjou. However, Stephen, son of Stephen of Blois and Adela, sister of Henry I, claims the English crown before Matilda can reach Winchester and becomes king of England and duke of Normandy. The civil war between the supporters of the two factions starts soon thereafter and finishes only in 1154 when Henry II (1133-1189), son of Matilda, becomes king of England, eventually uniting Normandy, Anjou, Ireland and also Aquitaine, which was acquired through his marriage with Eleanor of Aquitaine. Richard (1157-1199) takes up the crown as Richard I at his father's death in 1189 and spends most of his reign either crusading or trying to recover his possessions in France. John succeeds his brother in 1199 and dies in 1216 leaving the kingdom to his elder son Henry. It is in the fourth year of Henry III's reign (1216-1272) that our project ends.

In this brief outline of the succession to the English crown, it can be seen that a number of important political events take place. The Normans conquer England, but then England loses Caen as early as 1204. The political battle between the king and his vassals ends provisionally with the promulgation of the Magna Carta in 1215 and the power struggle between the crown and the church culminate with the assassination of Thomas Becket in 1170.

Because of this sense of political instability, culturally there is much to celebrate. The majestic twelfth-century Romanesque style is evinced in architecture, art and manuscript production; by the end of the twelfth century the gothic cathedrals started to play an important role in architecture, book production and medieval culture in general across Europe. This sense of renovation is, of course, an intrinsic aspect of medieval culture, which in England arguably started with the Benedictine reform and continued all the way through the Norman and the Plantagenet periods.

It is in this context that the Project is sited. Those manuscripts containing English produced between 1060 and 1220 are undoubtedly worthy of sustained study in their own right; they are culturally and intellectually significant, particularly because of what they say about the longevity and status of the vernacular in the period after the Norman invasion. However, they also have to be studied within the framework of a multilingual and multicultural society, which England has become by the beginning of the thirteenth century. A significant illustration of this interchange is the role played by women as cultural ambassadors (Groag 1988). The royal patronage of Adela of Blois, Edith/Matilda (Henry I's first wife) and Adeliza of Louvain (Henry I's second wife), the Empress Matilda, and Eleanor of Aquitaine contributes to the literary culture within and beyond the English borders. A reassessment of women's direct or indirect influence on the production and use of manuscripts has to be an important part of developing our understanding of written culture in this period.

The historiography and the literature of the period emphasise the differences between pre- and post-Conquest England, as a way of describing the discontinuity of the Anglo-Saxon past to the innovation of the Anglo-Norman future. Our project certainly does not dispute that the Norman Conquest had a huge impact on the English cultural and political establishment; however, at the same time it should not be used to mask the continuation of the Anglo-Saxon past with its own vibrant interaction with Europe. We have to move beyond the paradigm that England was brought into Europe by the Conquest. Artificial labels and historical events are often used to divide and compartmentalize ideas, and they are not helpful to convey concepts across boundaries. Nevertheless, they can be useful as they can be universally recognised and thus allow scholars to exchange models and theories assuming a common ground. It is with this assumption in mind that I am using labels such as pre-Conquest or post-Conquest in this paper.

The quantity of scholarly work on the manuscripts that fall within the temporal and geographical boundaries of our project varies. It reveals a variety of research interests which interrogate and scrutinize the physical artefact and the textual culture which generated the artefact itself. For the sake of clarity in the overview of research and research questions which follows, it may be useful to cluster topics thematically, starting with a discussion on the centres of production, scribes, material and textual evidence and finally the coexistence and status of the linguistic environments.

The main centres for medieval manuscript production in Anglo-Saxon England were religious institutions and we do have information about some of these institutions and their books. Lindisfarne and Wearmouth-Jarrow are early examples of the seventh and eighth centuries. With the Benedictine reform of the tenth and eleventh century and the new emphasis on learning, new monasteries were founded and old ones reformed. Abingdon, Canterbury, Glastonbury, Ramsey, Sherborne, Winchester, Worcester, Westbury-on-Trym and York, for instance, are all religious institutions associated with production of scholarship in those years. Cathedrals, monasteries and abbeys continue their tradition as learning-hubs for the religious community they serve also between 1060 and 1220. The Benedictine order served the majority of pre- and post-Conquest communities, including cathedrals, but secular clergy were also represented. Augustinian houses of canons were established, and the Cistercians settled in England at the beginning of twelfth century. All these orders at varying times in the pre- and post-Conquest period, Benedictine, Augustinian and Cistercian, contributed to the production of books and their libraries and have recently been studied in the British Academy series on Medieval Libraries. In Ker's English Manuscripts in the Century After the Norman Conquest, there is evidence of collections of books between 1060 and 1170 in Abingdon, Bath, Buildwas, Bury St Edmunds, Christ Church: Canterbury, St Albans, St Augustine's: Canterbury, Chichester, Cirencester, Chicksand, Dover, Durham, Elstow, Evesham, Eynsham, Exeter, Ford, Glastonbury, Gloucester, Hereford, Hexham, Holmcultram, Lanthony, Lessness, Lincoln, Meaux, Missenden, Newstead, Norwich, Northampton, St Osyth, St Paul's London, Peterborough, Reading, Roche, Rochester, Waltham, Warden, Winchcombe, Worcester and York.

Book collections do not necessarily imply actual book production, but they constitute an important starting point for investigating the creation of libraries and reading preferences. Much work needs to be done on these aspects of manuscript output, but just a glance at Helmut Gneuss' list illustrates how manuscript origin and provenance coincide only relatively rarely. The intellectual curiosity, which the survival of books in collections suggests, forms the basis for treasuring written texts otherwise not easily available. Thus, it provokes the impetus for collecting knowledge and copying books. Copying in situ was the normal practice; however, scholars are still debating whether each institution could have had its own organised scriptorium. Recent scholarship is, in fact, cautious in suggesting such a provision outside main centres of production. A scriptorium implies a high degree of standardization, which reflects on the homogeneity of the manuscripts being produced. The label scriptorium can then be attributed to an institution where more than one scribe works together in a collaborative fashion. Distinctions however are not as crystal clear as one may think and only further study on each individual house will bring further evidence to bear on existing documentation and scholarly opinions, which I will now summarise below.

Scholarship on the scriptoria of Christ Church and St Augustine's in Canterbury, Rochester and Worcester is extensive and has documented book production in these scriptoria both in the pre- and post-Conquest period, but there is a predominantly post-Conquest activity at Bury St Edmunds and Salisbury. There is sporadic evidence (in a temporal sense) of what Thomson defines as 'scriptorial activity' in Gloucester and St Albans, but little supporting evidence at Hereford. Mynors, Thomson and Gullick explain: 'The palaeographical connections between some of ... [the] twelfth-century books raises the question of whether the Cathedral had in any sense a "scriptorium" at that time'. 'On the other hand', they observe, 'there are a number of records of professional scribes, painters ... and parchmenters working in Hereford during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries'. This may suggest that the Cathedral could hire local expertise to fulfil its demands of writing documents if not to copy books. Books in Lincoln were also possibly made locally. Even though it is known that manuscripts were written there, as Thomson noted, 'To what extent one can speak of a "scriptorium" operating continuously over a period of time is not easy to say'. Nevertheless, there is evidence of a group of books during the Bishoprics of Alexander and Robert de Chesney, which displays uniformity and high quality production. This raises the question of whether the bishops, and Robert in particular, were, in Thomson's words, 'dependent upon a single scriptorium or atelier'. A similar debate is on-going regarding Exeter Cathedral Library, and we should also add to this list the studies published on the books produced in BuildwasDurhamGlastonburyMalmesburyNunnaminsterReading, Rievaulx and Waverly. Records of explicit, if not always generous, revenue to produce, repair and correct books are available from Worcester and Winchester, for instance, and there are similar records at Abingdon, Chicester, Cirencester, Ely, Elstow, Evesham, Ramsey, Sempringham, Whitby and other places already mentioned. Furthermore, manuscripts are also copied at Barking, Bath, Bedwyn, Bodmin, Chester-le-Street, 'Harewood', Hereford, Lichfield, St Paul's London, Peterborough, Sherborne, Thorney, Winchcombe, Winchester, Woodyates: Dorset and York.

If we were to map all these places of production and the religious institutions to which they belong we would realise that most of the English counties are represented, and that there was keen interest in book production across regular and secular houses and orders, serving both male and female communities. This picture can only but be representative of evidence to hand and can naturally change and fluctuate with the advancement of research and the taking of a single snapshot within a given period of time. Thus, the project will interpret this picture, bringing new evidence about manuscripts containing English to bear. A systematic investigation of the production and use of this type of manuscripts in this period may, in fact, change our way of talking about books from 1060 to 1220.

'Who wrote these books and how were they disseminated?' Ker asked, answering himself with: 'The questions are worth putting, but we have at present no satisfactory answers'. Our answer today might be similar to the one he gave in 1960, but a review of recently published research reveals that one can make some general comments on the type of copyists who could have prepared books. From the outset during the period 1060 to 1220, there were two types of scribes: scriptores and claustrales. In Abingdon, Ker reminds us, 'Abbot Faricius [1100-1117] employed six scriptores to copy patristic manuscripts, leaving to the claustrales the task of copying service-books'. These two categories seem to reflect the difference between scribes who would offer their service to the institution, perhaps vagantes who go from one place to the other, and cloistered members who were nevertheless involved in the writing activity at their institution as well. Gullick describes in detail the type of job these scriptores were employed to do for the precentor, including their remuneration. He calls them 'professional scribes' and defines this profession as: 'scribes who were not members of enclosed communities but worked writing books for such communities. They are presumably paid for their work or time in either money, kind or both'. Professional scribes are employed both in female and male communities and there is evidence of revenue being set aside for such a practice at Abingdon, Glastonbury, Evesham, Worcester, St Albans, Durham, Rochester, Cirencester, Witham, Colchester and finally the abbess of Elstow employed Ralph Fitz Ralph, perhaps working in Bedford, to write one of her manuscripts. Thomson has also argued that in both Hereford and Lincoln it is likely that the cathedrals employed professional scribes available locally, as noted above. Only a handful of these scriptores have a name and evidence of their existence is mostly derived from records datable to just before our period. Wulfgeat, first half of the eleventh century, was employed in Worcester; the famous Alexis Master and his team were probably employed by abbot Geoffrey at St Albans during the mid-eleventh century; Ralph of Pullham worked at Cirencester during the second half of the eleventh century and, as we have seen, Ralph Fitz Ralph, pupil of Robert of Bedford, was active at the end of the twelfth century. It is important to notice that all these records define this type of scribe as scriptor, and that there seems to be less reference to the role of the claustrales. Additional general information on the other active scribes from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries is available. The famous Eadwine was active at Christ Church, Canterbury in the middle of the twelfth century and Ker's hands l and r from this scriptorium are also found in other eleventh- and twelfth-century manuscripts. Hands m and n worked in Exeter during the eleventh century, hand s in Peterborough in the first half of the twelfth century and hand t, usually identified as the Textus Roffensis scribe, was active in Rochester during the first half of the twelfth century. In Winchester, Ælsinus writes between 1023 and 1035. In Worcester, Hemming is active during the eleventh century, Coleman is recorded before 1113. Hand o is recognisable in documents of the second half of the eleventh century, as well as hands p and s, whilst hand u, who is usually named Tremulous Hand after his rather shaky script, is datable to the beginning of the thirteenth century. These hands are usually associated with scribes copying, annotating or correcting in English, as well as in Latin, and the Textus Roffensis scribe is an obvious example. Female scribes play an important role in the copying of manuscripts in these years, inasmuch as they usually provide books for their own community. We know less about their work and where they operate compared with the evidence from their male colleagues, but scriptrix do exist.

England between 1060 and 1220 is becoming a multilingual and multicultural country and Norman scribes and illuminators have a central role in the book production of those years. Recent studies have been trying to understand their impact on manuscript techniques in Britain across different writing environments. It is in this spirit that scholars working on this period are now starting to think about the material available and how to collect and analyse it. Going beyond our preconceived ideas about what we can find is the only way to begin a fresh investigation and consider the twelfth century in a new light. Scribes were often working with more than one language and only by mapping this phenomenon in its own right will we be able to start to understand how these languages coexist within diverse writing environments.

Gameson's study of the manuscripts of early Norman England, for instance, not only collects the available evidence on Norman manuscripts produced in Britain, but also stresses the significance of such productions. This research focuses mainly on manuscripts which contain Latin texts, but Gameson's also analyses generically the type of text that scribes in the main scriptoria were copying, thus contributing to an understanding of readership in individual languages in twelfth-century England. French textual culture in England, which is usually labelled Anglo-Norman, has also attracted a number of studies. Dean's guide to Anglo-Norman texts and manuscripts is a very useful resource which completes the work by Legge and others. A new project has been set up to identify twelfth-century manuscripts containing French disseminated all over Europe, which is a continuation of the work by Woledge, Short and Nixon. Together with 'The French of England' project, such work will help to re-assemble the complex multilingual jigsaw that the Britain is between 1060 and 1220, which as yet still remains incomplete. One important piece of this jigsaw has still to be discovered and inserted in its place: manuscripts which contain English have never been systematically collected and analysed. Studies have appeared which focus on the quantification and description of the Anglo-Saxon heritage and may now be useful to review what we can infer from these works, which are closely related to our project.

Ker's hugely important scholarship has dominated the entire period and indeed his pioneering work on the Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon ought to be the starting point for any investigation. Just turning the pages of his catalogue and the published continuations of it reveals texts in English spanning the tenth, eleventh, twelfth and beginning of the thirteenth century. Additional catalogues have made this point clearer and their temporal termini come from opposite ends of the medieval period. Gneuss's studies on Anglo-Saxon manuscripts to the end of the eleventh century, Lapidge's work on booklists and libraries of Anglo-Saxon England, Pelteret's Catalogue of English Post-Conquest Vernacular DocumentsLaing's Catalogue of Sources for a Linguistic Atlas of Early Medieval EnglishBudny's Insular, Anglo-Saxon, and Early Anglo-Norman Manuscript Art at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge: An Illustrated Catalogue, and the projects Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts in Microfiche Facsimile and C11 Database: An Inventory of Script and Spellings in Eleventh-Century English all contribute to what we know about English manuscripts between 1060 and 1220. However, this information is dispersed and difficult to collocate in relationship to the other parts of the jigsaw of these hundred and sixty years. We can never have a clear picture of the production and use of English manuscripts unless they are methodically assembled and scrutinised in their own right. We have published in our e-book hundreds of manuscripts. They all contain English texts, which may appear on the layout of the page in a variety of positions: centrally, in the left, right, bottom or upper margin and also between lines. The function of these texts varies, and we might categorise them as main texts, glosses or annotations. Their content is also diverse and consists of prose and poetry from the homiletic and hagiographic works by Ælfric and other anonymous authors, copies of the Gospels, the Rule of St Benedict and Rule of Chrodegang, Laws, cartularies, chronicles, prognostications, dialogue literature, moral writing (the Poema Morale), medical texts and herbaria, and Psalters. The degree of scholarly study, textual analysis and examination of the single manuscripts which contain them also differs.

We know that some of these texts were copied at Abingdon, Barking, Bath, Bodmin, Bury St Edmunds, Christ Church, Canterbury, St Augustine's, Canterbury, Durham, Ely, Exeter, St Paul's London, Peterborough, Rochester, Salisbury, Sherborne, Thorney, Winchester, Worcester and York. This preliminary evidence not only demonstrates that scribes copied, glossed and annotated manuscripts in English, but it also emphasises that a number of houses kept on this tradition in the years and centuries after the Norman conquest.

We have already surveyed above what we know of those scribes. It may be worth highlighting again here that some of them could master at least two languages: English and Latin. As Thomson commented: 'Between 1095 and 1113 the monk Coleman wrote the Life of Bishop Wulfstan II in Old English; he annotated a number of books in both Latin and English ... Yet other books with the text in Old English were glossed by Worcester hands dating from the late eleventh century to the early thirteenth century'. Furthermore, French is present in some of these manuscripts is not uncommon, adding an additional linguistic layer to the complicated web of the textual reception in this period. Cambridge University Library, Ii. 1. 33 is a case in point, demonstrating the cultural intersections of twelfth-century England.

The question of the audience of these texts becomes crucial. Who would be interested in writing, annotating, glossing and reading texts in English, Latin and French? Scholars have suggested English-speaking monastic and secular producers and audiences, including nuns. However, as Treharne has pointed out for some homiletic texts: 'The precise environment in which these Old English texts were read and used in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries is difficult to determine'. An additional consideration which needs to be borne in mind is to the function of secular and monastic schools. Those professional scribes mentioned above and other monastic and secular personnel had to be educated, had to learn the alphabet and how to read and write, and the question therefore is 'could any of these manuscripts containing multilingual texts be used in these tasks?' An answer is not easy to find and only further work on the manuscript tradition of this period will give some more clues.

The material context of the EM Project still needs to be investigated further, but a full re-contextualisation and integration of the English material with its historical continuum starts with this e-book. The English texts these manuscripts transmit strongly suggest a continuation and an interest which is very much alive beyond the Norman Conquest, and in these pages there is much evidence of this, as well as promoting dialogue and a new discourse which we hope will lead to the reinstatement of these English texts in their rightful place within the canon of medieval literature and culture.

Orietta Da Rold, Leicester


An earlier version of this paper was published as Da Rold, O., 'English Manuscripts 1060 to 1220 and the Making of a Re-Source', Literature Compass, 3 (2006); it is reproduced here with permission.

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