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English Vernacular Minuscule from Æthelred to Cnut, circa 990 - circa 1035

English Vernacular Minuscule from Æthelred to Cnut, circa 990 - circa 1035

Volume: 14
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    English Vernacular Minuscule from Æthelred to Cnut, circa 990 - circa 1035
    Book Description:

    A new, distinct script, English Vernacular minuscule, emerged in the 990s, used for writing in Old English. It appeared at a time of great political and social upheaval, with Danish incursions and conquest, continuing monastic reform, and an explosion of writing and copying in the vernacular, including the homilies of Ælfric and Wulfstan, two different recensions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, two of the four major surviving manuscripts of Old English poetry (the "Beowulf" and "Junius" books), and many original royal and ecclesiastical diplomas, writs and wills. However, although these important manuscripts and documents have been studied extensively, this has tended to be in isolation or small groups, never before as a complete corpus, a gap which this volume aims to rectify. It opens with the historical context, followed by a thorough reexamination of the evidence for dating and localising examples of the script. It them offers a full analysis of the complete corpus of surviving writing in English Vernacular minuscule, datable approximately from its inception in the 990s to the death of Cnut in 1035. While solidly grounded in palaeographical methodology, the book introduces more innovative approaches: by examining all of the approximately 500 surviving examples of the script as a whole rather than focussing on selected highlights, it presents a synthesis of the handwriting in order to identify local practices, new scribal connections, and chronological and stylistic developments in this important but surprisingly little-studied script. Peter Stokes is Senior Lecturer at King's College London.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-240-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Lists of Tables, Figures and Plates
    (pp. vi-ix)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-x)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    The early twenty-first century has seen some substantial new developments in the field of palaeography. These have come about largely through the convergence of two different but related changes: on the one hand, widespread access to digital images of manuscripts and computers powerful enough to process them, and on the other hand revived interest in the long-standing discussion of ‘scientific’ methodversusconnoisseurship in palaeographical study.¹ To summarise this briefly, it has long been debated whether palaeography can (or should) be scientific, namely based as much as possible on concrete evidence and quantitative criteria, or if instead it should (or...

  7. 1 Background
    (pp. 10-34)

    The roots of English Vernacular minuscule lie in script practised very much earlier. The Insular system of script, as defined and characterised by Julian Brown, was one demonstrably practised in Ireland and England, probably also in Wales and perhaps Scotland; at least in Brown’s conception of it, it lasted until the Viking incursions of the mid-ninth century. At this time Anglo-Saxon scribal practices seem to have collapsed: a dramatic change has been observed in the quality of both the script and the Latinity of charters from about the 850s, and this correlates closely with claims attributed to King Alfred that...

  8. 2 Attributions of Origin
    (pp. 35-78)

    Any detailed palaeographical analysis of the sort proposed here depends on a firm base of dated and localised manuscripts. Such a base can be difficult to build, however, particularly for the Anglo-Saxon period, from which so little survives and that which does is often subject to numerous conflicting attributions from different scholars at different times; these attributions can then be cited over and over in subsequent scholarship which does not necessarily consider the uncertainties expressed in the original attribution, and sometimes not even subsequent strong counter-arguments. The purpose of this chapter is therefore to work systematically through the corpus, reevaluating...

  9. 3 Scribal Change in Bookhands and Charters: The ‘Tall and Narrow’ Hands
    (pp. 79-119)

    Now that the corpus of scribal hands has been described and, as far as possible, dated and localised on non-palaeographical grounds, we can turn finally to the script. As has already been discusssed, the development of script to the end of the tenth century and the beginning of the eleventh is one of the end of Square minuscule and the introduction of a new script, English Vernacular minuscule.¹ This change seems to have begun in the early 990s, and its most prominent feature is the lengthening and narrowing of letters, with ascenders and descenders in particular becoming significantly longer than...

  10. 4 Scribal Continuity in Bookhands and Charters: The ‘Square-Influenced’ Hands
    (pp. 120-163)

    As I have shown in the previous chapter, the last decade of the tenth century saw a new style of script develop, which I have called Style-I English Vernacular minuscule. However, this script was not practised throughout Anglo-Saxon England. Instead, some scribes seemed to have written a second style of Vernacular minuscule, one which preserved more features of Square minuscule, particularly the proportions and quite a few of the letter-forms. These are largely the hands which Neil Ker described as ‘late forms of’ or ‘manifest descendants of’ Square minuscule, and they are the hands which will be considered in detail...

  11. 5 Glosses and Scribbles
    (pp. 164-187)

    The previous two chapters have discussed all book-hands in the corpus, as well as assorted brief additions and notes.¹ However, two other forms of script evidence survive which have not yet been considered: glosses and scribbles. Although these could have been discussed in the context of book-hands, such an approach risks blurring any distinction between scripts in the three types of writing. Indeed, Bernhard Bischoff has argued for two distinct grades of Caroline script, the book-hand and the gloss-script, and it is an important question whether the same distinction was used in English vernacular script.² Similarly, short scribbles in manuscripts...

  12. Conclusion: Change and Continuity in Early English Vernacular Minuscule
    (pp. 188-206)

    In the previous chapters of this book, almost five hundred scribal hands which I have dated approximately 990 × 1035 have been surveyed, analysed and compared. These chapters have contained careful analyses of vast amounts of detail, detail which has both allowed the hands to be classified into broad styles and permitted these styles to be associated, to a greater or lesser extent, with Anglo-Saxon scriptoria. Necessary as this has been, we must now take a step back and place the results into their larger palaeographical and historical context. To begin, then, it is worthwhile briefly to summarise the main...

  13. Appendix. List of Scribal Hands
    (pp. 207-234)
  14. Glossary
    (pp. 235-238)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-254)
  16. Index of Manuscripts and Charters
    (pp. 255-260)
  17. General Index
    (pp. 261-266)
  18. Figures and Plates
    (pp. 268-298)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 299-299)