Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Manuscripts in Northumbria in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Manuscripts in Northumbria in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries

Article excerpt

Manuscripts in Northumbria in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries. By Anne Lawrence-Mathers. (Rochester, New York: D. S. Brewer. 2003. Pp. xli, 308. $110.00;£60.)

This is a book of considerable ambition setting out to "study the development of monastic and intellectual culture" in Northumbria "through an analysis of [its] manuscripts, scriptoria and libraries" from the Norman Conquest to the death of Ailred of Rievaulx (1167). The method is to analyze the manuscripts, and then place the results "within the larger context of the social and political development" in the region. The relevant manuscripts, about 220, are listed by provenance from Ker's Medieval Libraries of Great Britain (although there are at least two listed under the wrong place), but, although there are a few not in Ker, at least thirty manuscripts, either listed by Ker or identified by others, have been missed. The author carefully distinguishes manuscripts which she be lieves were locally made, but appears to presume that manuscripts of known provenance that were not locally made were at the houses which owned them in the twelfth century. The descriptions of the manuscripts are very summary. Manuscripts with several items are rarely described in full; additions seem never to be described; a few texts are misidentified, and there are other errors. While it is true (as noticed by the author) that the majority of the manuscripts are from Durham Cathedral, and therefore fuller descriptions are in Mynors' Durham Cathedral Manuscripts, this book is not available everywhere. A revision and a more detailed account of the manuscripts from elsewhere (some of them so far very inadequately described in print) would have been helpful. The dates given to the manuscripts in the list are sometimes quite precise, but others are merely dated as "twelfth century." As the manuscripts form the fundamental source of this study, their treatment in the list seems rather casual.

The organization of the material in the book is more or less chronological (rather than thematic), with each chapter dealing with one topic. …

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