Academic journal article Medium Aevum

God's Scribe: The Historiographical Art of Galbert of Bruges

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

God's Scribe: The Historiographical Art of Galbert of Bruges

Article excerpt

Jeff Rider, God's Scribe: The Historiographical Art of Galbert of Bruges (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2001). VII + 360 pp. ISBN 0-8132-1018-6. $59.95.

This is Jeff Rider's companion volume to his edition of Galbert of Bruges, De multro, traditions, et occisione gloriosi Karoli comitis Flandriarum (CCCM 131: Turnhout, 1994), the text generally known in English as The Murder of Charles the Good. The text is an eyewitness account in journal form of the murder of Charles, Count of Flanders, in Bruges on 2 March 1127, and of the ensuing events. The journal(istic) form of the text is unique in the twelfth century and has led some scholars to the belief that it is a naive and artless account of 'what actually happened', reported unthinkingly by a comital notary. Rider's thesis made convincingly - is that Galbert (probably never actually a notary, but more likely a middling clerk in the count's fiscal administration) was an intelligent, empathetic, and imaginative man, with a taste for the dramatic and a flair for writing, whose enforced unemployment after Charles's murder allowed him to report and then, crucially, rework the events he had lived through as a vivid and convincing 'history' (in the modern sense) of the times. It is the reworking that is key, in Rider's account. Galbert seems to have recorded daily happenings in a small wax-tablet codex, which he periodically wrote up onto parchment, adding and subtracting as he gained new information or decided on what was important; and he made these decisions as he saw patterns emerging, which he interpreted as the working of God in events. …

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