Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Scribal Authorship and the Writing of History in Medieval England

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Scribal Authorship and the Writing of History in Medieval England

Article excerpt

Matthew Fisher, Scribal Authorship and the Writing of History in Medieval England, Interventions: New Studies in Medieval Culture (Columbus, Oh.: Ohio State University Press, 2012). xii + 222 pp. 978-0-8142-1198-4. £49.46.

In the first of his four chapters, the author offers broad reflections on the activities of medieval scribes, stressing that they might be authors and editors as well as transcribers of texts. In the second, after considering a charter copied in imitative Anglo-Saxon script embedded within the fifteenth-century cartulary of Holy Trinity Priory, Aldgate, he reflects on the function of history-writing more generally, particularly as practised by Bede, William of Malmesbury, and Geoffrey of Monmouth. In the third he explores the work of the 'Harley Scribe' (named after British Library, Harley MS 225 3 - the manuscript celebrated for the so-called 'Harley Lyrics') and his involvement with the 'Short Chronicle' found in BL, Royal MS 12 C.xii. In the fourth he examines the ouvre of two further scribes: the first hand of the 'Auckinleck manuscript' (National Library of Scodand, MS Adv. 19.2.1), arguing that he 'was responsible for composing the Auchinleck Short Chronicle, an act of scribal authorship recalling the Harley scribe's work in Royal 12. C.xii a decade before' (p. 150); and then Scribe 1 of London, College of Arms, Arundel 58 (a manuscript containing the ME Chronicle of Robert of Gloucester, the romance Richard, and the so-called 'Kings of England'), inferring 'that Arundel 58 is Scribe i's book and the Arundel Chronicle is Scribe i's text' (p. 186). A four-page 'Epilogue' simply re-states earlier conclusions: 'this book has explored not only the ways in which scribes wrote manuscripts, but more troublingly, the ways in which the very term "copying" is misleading with regards to the wide range of scribal behaviors attested in medieval manuscripts' (p. …

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