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The case for a West Saxon minuscule

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 September 2008

Julia Crick
University of Exeter


Julian Brown's famous analysis of what he termed the Insular system of scripts marked out a number of routes, now well trodden, through the debris of undated and unlocalized manuscript material from the pre-Viking-Age British Isles. Ever since, the best hope for students of palaeography seeking to date and localize examples of early Insular minuscule has been to follow Brown's classification and identify them as Type A or B, Northumbrian or Southumbrian, and Phase I or II. Brown's schema, however, offered orientation rather than a map. As with any typology, it depends on a very few fixed points, themselves unusual because of their lack of anonymity: gospelbooks from Ireland and Northumbria dated by the survival of rare colophons, manuscripts connected with St Boniface which show the operation of a unique editorial mind. Although Brown's system has been successfully applied to the output of scriptoria whose influences, practices, connections, even locations remain mostly unknown, complications inevitably arise. This article concerns one of them, the recycling in Phase II of a type of minuscule displaying the cursiveness and capriciousness characteristic of Phase I: Type B minuscule as illustrated by the script of St Boniface.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1997

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1 For example, in his unpublished Lyell lectures: ‘The Insular System of Scripts, c. 600 to c. 850’ (The James P. R. Lyell Lectures in Bibliography, University of Oxford, 1977).

2 ‘The Irish Element in the Insular System of Scripts to circa A.D. 850’, Die Iren und Europa im früheren Mittelalter, ed. Löwe, H., 2 vols. (Stuttgart, 1982) 1, 101–19Google Scholar, repr. in A Palaeographer's View. the Selected Writings of Julian Broom, ed. Bately, J., Brown, M. P. and Roberts, J. (London, 1993), pp. 201–20.Google Scholar

3 These have been whittled down still further by David Dumville's exposure of the fragility of the colophon in the Iindisfarne Gospels: ‘A Palaeographer's Review’ (forthcoming).

4 Brown himself seems to have adopted this usage in his Lyell lectures: Barker-Benfield, B. C., ‘The Insular Hand’, TLS (27 01 1978), p. 100.Google Scholar

5 ‘The Irish Element’, p. 112Google Scholar (A Palaeographer's View, p. 213Google Scholar). Brown later localized IB more precisely, writing of ‘early Northumbrian and early South Western minuscule (Types IA and IB, in my terminology)’: ‘The Oldest Irish Manuscripts and their Late Antique Background’, Irland und Europa, ed. Chatháin, P. Ni and Richter, M. (Stuttgart, 1984), pp. 311–27, at 314Google Scholar (A Palaeographer's View, pp. 221–1, at 225).Google Scholar

6 ‘The Irish Element’, p.112Google Scholar (A Palaeographer's View, p. 213).Google Scholar

7 Parkes, M. B., ‘The Handwriting of St Boniface: a Reassessment of the Problems’, BGDSL 98 (1976), 161–79, at 161–5Google Scholar, repr. in his Scribes, Scripts and Readers: Studies in the Communication, Presentation and Dissemination of Medieval Texts (London, 1991), pp. 121–42, at 121–6.Google Scholar One scribe appears in a fragment of Boniface's grammar at Oberkaufungen (Lowe, E. A., Codices Latini Antiquiores, 11 vols. [with 2nd ed. of vol. III and supp. (Oxford, 19341972; hereafter CLA), supp., no. 1803), another in a fragment of Servius's commentary on the Aeneid at Spangenberg (CLA supp., no. 1806), and a third in glosses in the Codex Fuldensis (CLA VIII, no. 1196) added after Boniface (glossator A) had made his own annotations.Google Scholar

8 Brown, , ‘The Irish Element’, p.112Google Scholar (A Palaeographer's View, p. 213)Google Scholar; Parkes, , ‘The Handwriting of St Boniface’, pp. 166–79Google Scholar (Scribes, Scripts and Readers, pp. 126–42).Google Scholar

9 ‘The Irish Element’, p. 113Google Scholar (A Palaeographer's View, p. 213).Google Scholar On the dating of Mulling, see ‘The Irish Element’, p. 114Google Scholar (A Palaeographer's View, p.215).Google Scholar

10 ‘Roughly from the middle of the seventh until the beginning of the eighth century’: Brown, , ‘The Irish Element’, p.106Google Scholar (A Palaeographer's View, p. 206).Google Scholar

11 ‘Late Antique and Early Anglo-Saxon Books’, Manuscripts at Oxford: an Exhibition in Memory of Richard William Hunt (19081979), ed. de la Mare, A. C. and Barker-Benfield, B. C. (Oxford, 1980), pp. 914, at 13 (no. II.3).Google Scholar

12 Ibid. p. 13.

13 See Facsimiles of Ancient Charters in the British Museum, ed. Bond, E. A., 4 vols. (London, 18731878) I.17, II.27 and 30.Google Scholar

14 On these grounds Andrew Watson included Bodley 426 in his catalogue of dated and datable manuscripts in Oxford: Catalogue of Dated and Datable Manuscripts c. 435–1600 in Oxford Libraries, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1984), no. 88:1, 16 and II, pl. 7.Google Scholar

15 ‘The Origin and Authenticity of the Royal Anglo-Saxon Diploma’, Jnl of the Soc. of Archivists 3 (19651969), 4861, at 57Google Scholar, repr. in Prisca Munimenta: Studies in Archival and Administrative History presented to Dr A. E. J. Hollaender, ed. Ranger, F. (London, 1973), pp. 2842, at 38–9.Google Scholar Note that Chaplais reported that the script was the same.

16 The West Saxon Charters of King Æthelwulf and his Sons’, EHR 109 (1994), 1109–49, at 1117–18.Google Scholar

17 One in Aug. ii. 37 and the Wilton endorsement of Aug. ii. 20, another in Bodley 426 and a third in Cotton Charter viii. 36: Brooks, N., The Early History of the Church of Canterbury: Christ Church from 597 to 1066 (Leicester, 1984), p. 324.Google Scholar

18 See above, p. 65, n. 14. Morrish, J., ‘Dated and Datable Manuscripts Copied in England during the Ninth Century: a Preliminary list’, MS 50 (1988), 512–138, at 513.Google Scholar

19 Watson, , Dated and Datable Manuscripts, II, pl. 7: CLA II, no. 234.Google Scholar

20 On comparing book- and charter-hands, see Brown, M. P., ‘Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, lat. 10861 and the Scriptorium of Christ Church, Canterbury’, ASE 15 (1986), 119–37, at 119–20.Google Scholar

21 For example Aug. ii. 20, second line of the first endorsement Ætbeluulf, Aug. ii. 37, line 1 appellatur, Cotton Charter viii. 36v on anne beorg.

22 Script of this more informal sort can be found, for example, on 49r, 67r, 82r, and in the last few lines of other folios, for example 107v. Despite considerable change in the aspect of the script, at no point can this be attributed to the work of more than one scribe.

23 The condition of the parchment – less worn and fuzzy – may have some bearing on the aspect of the script.

24 Comparing the text of the Wilton endorsement which appears in both, one notices, for example, the distinctive spacing of letters in adducta and in uilla, the ductus of eius and itaque, and the cramped st-ligature in Alhstan. Aug. ii. 37, however, cannot be regarded as an exact facsimile of Aug. ii. 20 (for example, in ii. 37 the scribe favours uu over wyn and employs subscript i less frequently). It is notable that the script of the at Astran endorsement underwent no distortion when copied into the smaller format of Aug. ii. 37.

25 perdoes not appear at all in the Wilton endorsement in Aug. ii. 20.

26 This t and, for that matter, the 3-shaped g should not be confused with the forms of those letters which Keller and Kuhn regarded as indicative of Mercian script: Keller, W., Angelsächsische Palaeographie. Die Schrift der Angelsachsen mit besonderer Rücksicht auf die Denkmäler in der Volkssprache, 2 vols. (Berlin, 1906) 1, 20–1Google Scholar and Kuhn, S. M., ‘The Vespasian Psalter and the Old English Charter Hands’, Speculum 18 (1943), 458–83, at 458–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar These have a hooked topstroke which sits above the middle of the letter and does not extend above neighbouring letters. See also Lowe, E. A., ‘A Key to Bede's Scriptorium’, in his Palaeographical Papers 1907–1965, ed. Bieler, L., 2 vols. (Oxford, 1972) 11, 441–9, at 447.Google Scholar

27 Collins, R., Anglo-Saxon Vernacular Manuscripts in America (New York, 1976), p. 60.Google Scholar

28 For example, Brown, , ‘An Historical Introduction to the Use of Classical Latin Authors in the British Isles from the Fifth to the Eleventh Century’, SettSpol 22 (1974), 237–99, at 259Google Scholar (A Palaeographer's View, pp. 141–77, at 153).Google Scholar

29 He noted glosses ‘in roter Tinte und schöner mercischer National- d. h. Kursivschrift geschrieben’: ‘Studien zum Psalterium Romanum in England und zu seinen Glossierungen (in geschichtlicher Entwicklung)’, Festschrift für Lorenz Morsbach, ed. Holthausen, F. and Spies, H. (Halle, 1913), pp. 417–72, at 433.Google Scholar

30 A Reexamination of the Old English Glosses in the Blickling Psalter’, Anglia 81 (1963), 124–8, at 124, n. 1.Google Scholar

31 A similar form occurs in Boniface's script: see, for example, St Petersburg, Public Library, Q.v.I.15,63v15 propris.

32 pro is not abbreviated in the Wilton endorsement of Aug. ii. 20.

33 This practice is found in the work of other scribes such as the Canterbury scribe 4: on whom see Brooks, The Early History, pp. 168, 323–4 and 360, n. 70.Google Scholar

34 CLAII, no. 216.

35 See Ker, N. R., Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon (Oxford, 1957), no. 250 (p. 320).Google Scholar

36 CLA supp., no. 1679: this item has long been classed as an example of Phase II Type B by Professor Michael Lapidge in his unpublished teaching material.

37 Brooks, , The Early History, pp. 146 and 198200.Google Scholar See also Edwards, H., The Charters of the Early West Saxon Kingdom, BAR Brit. ser. 198 (Oxford, 1988), 157–9.Google Scholar

38 The Early History, pp. 168, 171 and 360, n. 70.Google Scholar

39 Cf. comments on M. 776, in particular, above, pp. 68–9.

40 ‘The Irish Element’, p. 107Google Scholar (A Palaeographer's View, p. 207 and p. 191).Google Scholar

41 Previous attempts to identify Mercian hands have met with little support, perhaps because of the deficiencies of the localizing evidence: Keller, , Angelsächsische Palaeographie 1, 20–3Google Scholar and Kuhn, , ‘The Vespasian Psalter’, pp. 458–83.Google Scholar Lowe, for example, identified so-called Mercian hands in Northumbrian manuscripts: ‘A Key’, pp. 446–7.Google Scholar

42 The Handwriting of St Boniface’, p. 179Google Scholar (Scribes, , Scripts and Readers, p. 142).Google Scholar

43 ‘The Oldest Irish Manuscripts’, p. 314Google Scholar (A Palaeographer's View, pp. 224–5).Google Scholar

44 ‘Late Antique and Early Anglo-Saxon Books’, p. 13.Google Scholar

45 Ibid. p. 12.

46 ‘The Irish Element’, p.113Google Scholar (A Palaeographer's View, p. 213)Google Scholar and ‘The Oldest Irish Manuscripts’, p. 314Google Scholar (A Palaeographer's View, p. 224).Google Scholar See also A Palaeographer's View, pp. 179200, at 191.Google Scholar

47 ‘The Oldest Irish Manuscripts’, p. 321Google Scholar (A Palaeographer's View, p. 234).Google Scholar Earlier, Brown had cited the Palatine Paulinus of Nola as a Northumbrian example: above, p. 64, n. 5. See Brown, T. J. and Mackay, T. W., Codex Vaticanus Palatinus Latinus 235: an Early Insular Manuscript of Paulinus of Nola Carmina (Turnhout, 1988).Google Scholar

48 ‘A Historical Introduction’, pp. 258–9Google Scholar (A Palaeographer's View, p. 153).Google Scholar

49 Vitae Sancti Bonifatii, ed. Levison, W., MGH SS rer. Germ. (Hanover, 1905), pp. 158, at 1Google Scholar, trans. Talbot, C. H., The Anglo-Saxon Missionaries in Germany (London, 1954), pp. 24–5.Google Scholar

50 Vitae Sancti Bonifatii, ed. Levison, , pp. 69Google Scholar, trans. Talbot, , The Anglo-Saxon Missionaries, pp. 2830.Google Scholar

51 For the history of the region, see Barlow, F., ‘The English Background’, The Greatest Englishman: Essays on St Boniface and the Church at Crediton, ed. Reuter, T. (Exeter, 1980), pp. 1129.Google Scholar

52 Brown, , ‘Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, lat. 10861’, p. 120.Google Scholar

53 On the verso facing lr, in a rough fourteenth-century Anglicana hand, appears the shelfmark D. III. G. 1111. which corresponds to no. 137 in the late-fifteenth-century catalogue of St Augustine's (Dublin, Trinity College 360): The Ancient Libraries of Canterbury and Dover, ed. James, M. R. (Cambridge, 1903), p. 204.Google Scholar

54 Chaplais, , ‘The Origin’, p. 57Google Scholar (Prisca Munimenta, ed. Ranger, , p. 38).Google Scholar

55 Brown, , ‘Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, lat. 10861’, pp. 129–33.Google Scholar See also Brooks, , The Early History, pp. 168–70Google Scholar and Crick, J., ‘Church, Land and Local Nobility in Early Ninth-Century Kent: the Case of Ealdorman Oswulf’, Hist. Research 61 (1988), 251–69, at 252–3 and 264–6.Google Scholar

56 Prescott, A. in The Making of England: Anglo-Saxon Art and Culture AD 600–900, ed. Webster, L. and Backhouse, J. (London, 1991), pp. 256–7 (no. 232).Google Scholar

57 Chaplais, , ‘The Origin’, p. 57Google Scholar (Prisca Munimenta, ed. Ranger, , p. 38).Google Scholar

59 The Early History, pp. 324–5.Google Scholar

60 On the question of the issuing authority of these documents, see Keynes, , ‘The West Saxon Charters’.Google Scholar

61 By coincidence, Kuhn had cited Aug. ii. 20 and Aug. ii. 37 as evidence that in ninth-century Canterbury ‘the old Mercian officials of Kent were quickly replaced with West Saxons’: ‘The Vespasian Psalter’, p. 481 and n. 3.Google Scholar

62 See Collins, , ‘A Reexamination’, pp. 125–7Google Scholar, although his reporting of Brock's readings is not entirely accurate.

63 ‘We have no further clue to the origin of the MS., but there is every reason to believe it was written in Lincoln, and that the glosses here printed are in the East Mercian dialect of the first half of the eighth century, or possibly earlier’: The Oldest English Texts, ed. Sweet, H., EETS os 83 (London, 1885), 122.Google Scholar

64 Wildhagen, , ‘Studien’, p. 434.Google Scholar

65 From Canterbury to Lichfield’, Speculum 23 (1948), 591629, at 609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

66 Lowe, , CLA supp., no. 1679.Google Scholar

67 The Councils of Clofesho, Vaughan Paper 38 (Leicester, 1994), 25 n. 107.Google Scholar

68 I am indebted to the staff of the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, for access to M. 776, to the Finance Committee of my Department for a grant to help me get there, to Simon Keynes and Michael Swanton for advice on the charters and on the Old English glosses respectively, and to David Dumville for extensive discussion of all aspects of the argument, which improved it immeasurably.

69 Brock, E., ‘The Blickling Glosses’, The Blickling Homilies, with a Translation and Index of Words together with the Blickling Glosses, ed. Morris, R., EETS os 58, 63 and 73 (London, 18741880; repr. as 1 vol., 1967), 251–63.Google Scholar See also Sweet, , The Oldest English Texts, pp. 122–3Google Scholar and Collins, , ‘A Reexamination’.Google Scholar

70 Pulsiano, P. J., ‘Materials for an Edition of the Blickling Psalter’ (unpubl. PhD dissertation, SUNY Stony Brook, 1982).Google Scholar

71 Robert, Weber reported in his apparatus other witnesses which carry diapsalma annotations: Le Psautier romain et les autres anciens psautiers latins (Rome, 1953).Google Scholar They include fifth- to eighthcentury manuscripts of French and Italian origin, together with one from Corbie: CLA I, no. 23, CLA IV, no. 472, CLA V, nos. 520 and 616, CLA VI, no. 772, CLA VII, nos. 970 and 985, CLA VIII, no. 1104 and CLA XI, no. 1601.

72 Taken from Le Psautier romain, ed. Weber.

73 See discussion above, pp. 65–7.

74 The Early History, pp. 323–5.Google Scholar

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