What's in a Paraph? A New Methodology and Its Implications for the Auchinleck Manuscript

By Marshall, Helen | The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History, Annual 2010 | Go to article overview

What's in a Paraph? A New Methodology and Its Implications for the Auchinleck Manuscript


Marshall, Helen, The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History


By the end of the fourteenth century, the process by which multiple craftsmen came together to collaborate on the production of vernacular books had undergone major changes. These changes included an increasing demand for specifically English texts, the emergence of a community of book producers within London and other major centers of the book trade, and the increased interface between authors and professional scribes. As the demand for books rose, book producers began to form networks through guild association, parish affiliation, and proximity. The Directory of London Stationers and Book Artisans: 1300-1500 locates 136 stationers and craftsmen within the immediate area of St. Paul's Cathedral. (1) These developing networks became the basis for collaboration on major projects, allowing multiple scribes to participate in ad hoc arrangements and likewise facilitating the exchange of exemplars or small textual units that could be employed within the production of major codices.

The study of these textual networks has benefited greatly from work conducted by Linne Mooney, Estelle Stubbs, and Simon Horobin in their Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project to identify the scribes involved in major late-medieval English manuscripts. In 2000 Mooney laid the groundwork for the subfield of scribal identification as a new direction in medieval manuscript studies. (2) Six years later, her identification of Adam Pinkhurst as Doyle and Parkes's Scribe B, the primary scribe of the Hengwrt and Ellesmere manuscripts, concretely demonstrated the need for inquiry into the makers of manuscripts. (3) For the first time, it seems possible to understand the London literary milieu as a community of people, and by identifying those people it is possible to assess more accurately the nature of their production arrangements.

Unarguably, this work is an important step in developing a new social and literary history of late-medieval book production. However, little has been done to address features of the text that potentially represent a further stage of production and therefore a further stage of collaboration--features such as the paraph. (4) My purpose, then, is to address the nature of the paraph as a textual object, one capable of being scrutinized with the same rigor applied to scribal hands of the period.

National Library of Scotland, Advocates MS 19.2.1 (the Auchinleck Manuscript)

Production of the Manuscript

Produced some time between 1330 and 1340, the Auchinleck manuscript has gained a place within the critical gaze of pre-Chaucerian scholars, who have mined it as a source for scholarly editions of many Middle English texts and have performed close analyses of its codicological breakdown. The current manuscript is made up of 331 folios and fourteen stubs, while an additional ten folios have been located detached from the manuscript. The book currently contains forty-four items, including romances, hagiographical texts, chronicles, and the like. Alison Wiggins's computer analysis of scribal habits confirms the early work of Timothy Shonk and A. J. Bliss, determining that we can distinguish six scribes who often share tasks within the booklets. (5) All of the scribes are anonymous and none of them has been identified as having worked on another manuscript.

Studies of the Auchinleck manuscript provide several models for book production in the early fourteenth century. The scholarship discussing the Auchinleck manuscript's production has been contentious, beginning with Laura Hibbard Loomis's groundbreaking article in the 1940s. (6) Adapting the model of the monastic scriptorium to a commercial venture, Hibbard Loomis proposes that the manuscript was created in what she calls a "lay scriptorium" or "bookshop." (7) This need not have been an actual shop; rather she proposes the idea of a lay center "where went on, whether under one roof or not, the necessarily unified and directed work of compiling, copying, illuminating, and binding any book. …

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