Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Unpublished Dry-Point Annotations in a Manuscript of the Old English Bede: Oxford, Corpus Christi College 279b

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Unpublished Dry-Point Annotations in a Manuscript of the Old English Bede: Oxford, Corpus Christi College 279b

Article excerpt

In addition to the text of the Old English Bede, the early eleventh-century manuscript Oxford, Corpus Christi College, 279B (henceforth 'O') contains a number of so far unpublished scratched or dry-point annotations.1 Although scratched glosses are not uncommon in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, the text present in Book 3 of the Old English Bede is unique among dry-point material so far studied, in that it consists of Old English corrections to an Old English text.2 That is, it presents in dry-point a type of material which is more often found written in ink in Old English texts. In addition, while a number of studies have examined the various manuscripts of the Old English Bede, incorporating evidence from the ink corrections, no study has yet dealt with the dry-point corrections alongside the Old English Bede's text.3 This article examines the nature of O's dry-point annotations, exploring their purpose and what they reveal about the attitude and motivations of the scribe who added them.

Four complete or near-complete manuscripts of the Old English Bede survive, and these form the basis of this study: the oldest, Oxford, Bodleian Library, Tanner 10 (T), is dated by Ker to the first half of the tenth century and has a Thorney provenance, while the subject of this article, Oxford, Corpus Christi College, 279B (O), dates from the first quarter of the eleventh century.4 Its pre-Reformation provenance is unknown. Slightly later is Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, 41 (B), which contains an inscription recording its donation to Exeter Cathedral by Archbishop Leforic during his episcopate (1046-72), and is dated by Ker to the first half of the eleventh century. Finally, Cambridge, University Library, Kk 3.18 (Ca) was written in the second half of the eleventh century, and has a Worcester provenance.

O's dry-point material

O contains at least ninety-three dry-point annotations throughout Book 3 of the Old English Bede.5 The terms 'scratched' and 'dry-point' refer to material entered into a manuscript, which is formed by using a hard point to scratch the letters into the surface of the parchment, rather than by using pen and ink. The appearance of the resulting indentations can vary according to the tool used to make them, for example a sharp knife will make a different impression on the writing surface from a blunt stylus.6 The scratched material itself is sometimes difficult to see, and even then it can be difficult to identify particular letter forms. Some are more easily visible with ultra-violet light, or with an angled light-source. The fact that scratched glosses were sometimes over-written, both in ink and by later scratched glosses, suggests that they could be difficult to read even when they were comparatively new.7

O's annotations are usually short, often consisting of only one or two letters, and they provide corrections to the main text. A typical example occurs at (190: 1), where the word fresana ('of the Frisians') has a dry-point inscribed above the first , correcting the text from fresana to fresena. This correction is interesting because it shows us the reaction of the annotator to O's Bede text. She or he evidently thought that fresena was a preferable spelling to fresana, giving us an insight into the reader's notions of correctness. According to Campbell, weak genitive plurals in -ana are found in early texts, as well as in later Anglian ones.8 The Old English Bede is famously a Mercian text which has undergone successive West Saxonization,9 and the correction of fresana shows the annotator expressing a preference for a less Anglian spelling.

Classification of the dry-point material

The form of these corrections is noteworthy. Previous studies of textual correction have examined only ink corrections, because dry-point corrections have not so far been found in Old English texts.10 The Old English dry-point additions to texts which have been discovered and studied consist of glosses to Latin texts. …

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