[Scriptoris] Fwd: [Scribes] Seems There is a New Book Out There

Hillary Greenslade hillaryrg at yahoo.com
Mon May 14 09:58:08 PDT 2007

--- Helen Schultz <helen.schultz at comcast.net> wrote:

> From: "Helen Schultz" <helen.schultz at comcast.net>
> To: "Bookbinder List" <SCA-BINDERS at yahoogroups.com>, <scribes at castle.org>,
>         "MK-Scribes" <MK-SCRIBES at yahoogroups.com>,
>         "New Scribes List" <SCA_Scribes_and_Illumination at yahoogroups.com>,
>         "SCA Teach" <SCAteach at yahoogroups.com>
> Date: Sat, 12 May 2007 07:37:51 -0400
> Subject: [Scribes] Seems There is a New Book Out There
> Just when you thought there could be no new books out on calligraphy... <sigh>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> Meisterin Katarina Helene von Schönborn, OL
> Shire of Narrental (Peru, Indiana)  http://narrental.home.comcast.net
> Middle Kingdom
> http://meisterin.katarina.home.comcast.net 
> "A room without books is like a body without a soul." -- Cicero
> "The danger in life is not that we aim too high and miss.
> The problem is that we aim too low and hit the mark."  -- Michaelangelo
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> The Medieval Review
> Roberts, Jane. "Guide to Scripts Used in English Writings up to
> 1500." London: The British Library, 2005. Pp. xv, 294. ISBN:
> 0712348840.
>    Reviewed by Richard Marsden
>         University of Nottingham
>         Richard.Marsden at nottingham.ac.uk
> Let us get it clear from the outset that this book is not a mere
> "guide"--that term makes the academic's heart sink, for there are
> too many of the species about, usually thin, soft-focused and
> cursory; rather, this can fairly claim to be an "introductory
> textbook" of English palaeography in the medieval period. As such,
> it is overdue and very welcome, for there has up to now been no
> "one-stop shop" for this subject. Those many of us who, though non-
> specialists in palaeography, regularly teach the subject in courses
> on various aspects of early medieval English culture know only too
> well the problem of finding suitable books to recommend. We end up
> producing, very laboriously, our own booklets of photocopies made
> from microfilms, books or, where they are available, online
> resources. Here at last we have a good range of facsimiles in one
> place, with exhaustive analysis and commentary. The material is
> accessible but the approach scholarly, and the hand (to use an
> appropriate metaphor) of a teacher who knows the material
> intimately is evident throughout. One should never underestimate
> the amount of sustained scholarship which goes into a serious
> textbook of this sort. With this resource, teaching "manuscripts"
> can actually be a pleasure, and an education.
> There are 294 pages, with just over one hundred black-and-white
> facsimiles, eight of which are reproduced also in colour in a
> separate section. The main contents are as follows:
> I. General Introduction
> II. Insular Background
> III. Anglo-Saxon Minuscule
> IV. English Caroline Minuscule
> V. Protogothic
> VI. The Gothic System of Scripts: Gothic "Textualis"
> VII. The Gothic System of Scripts: Anglicana
> VIII. The Gothic System of Scripts: Secretary
> IX. Afterword
> The General Introduction gives an excellent overview of the
> development of English script, its historical context, and is full
> of essential information about the complexities of naming scripts,
> the terminology used to describe them, and the use of
> abbreviations. The Afterword rounds off the story with some remarks
> on the introduction of printing, the relative status of Latin and
> English, and lay literacy.
> That story--of the evolution of the scripts--is told in the seven
> middle sections, II-VIII. Each has a introduction of three or four
> pages (that is, some 3-4000 words in this large-format book), which
> places the main script-type in its historical context, describes
> its characteristic features and variations, and so on. These essays
> are excellent in their detail and lucidity and constitute the main
> strength of the book. Though the subject is ostensibly English
> writing (mostly in forms of the English language, but also in
> Latin), sufficient information is provided in section II, on the
> Insular Background, to provide essential guidance on the Roman and
> Irish scripts out of which peculiarly English writing developed.
> All this is set out with clarity, and these pages now offer the
> best account available of the palaeography of the Anglo-Saxon
> period. After the introductory pages, there follow in each section
> the illustrative plates, between four and thirteen of them (the
> highest number being in section III). They are numbered
> continuously across section boundaries (1-58). The transcription
> opposite each facsimile is not restricted to an extract but is
> complete--text in both Old or Middle English and (if there is any)
> Latin is given, along with all punctuation, corrections, glosses,
> marginalia and rubrics. The accompanying commentary gives a
> detailed analysis of the scripts, punctuation and lay-out, and
> offers essential contextual and historical information. The detail
> which is cumulatively built up about each manuscript page is
> impressive: each repays a considerable amount of study time.
> Most of the illustrative manuscripts are naturally from the
> Additional, Cotton, Harley and Royal collections in the British
> Library, but there is a small number also from other libraries. The
> latter include pages from the Exeter Book, the Stockholm Codex
> Aureus (a page with Old English additions), the "Old English Bede" in
> Tanner 10, "Genesis B" in Junius 11, "Ormulum" in Junius
> 1, Barbour's "The Bruce" in the same library's G. 23, the
> "Morte Arthure" in Lincoln, Cathedral Library 91, and
> "Troilus and Criseyde" in Cambridge, St John's College L. 1;
> the last plate in the book is a page from "House of Fame" in
> Fairfax 16, written in the fifteenth century, with seventeenth
> century additions. The British Library material includes pages from
> the Lindisfarne Gospels (the last page, with Aldred's colophon),
> the Hexateuch in Cotton Claudius B. iv, the "Anglo-Saxon
> Chronicle" in Cotton Tiberius B. iv, the "Ancrene Riwle" in
> Cotton Titus D. viii, Hoccleve's  "The Regement of Princes" in
> Harley 4866 (the page with a portrait of Chaucer), Lydgate's
> "Horns Away" in Harley 2255, and the York Plays in Additional
> 35290. Whole-page reproductions are nearly always given, with an
> indication of the percentage reduction in size from the original.
> Line-numbers are supplied immediately to the right of each page to
> facilitate reference. The quality of the reproductions is generally
> excellent, though there are a few puzzling exceptions, a page from
> the Peterborough Chronicle being one of them.
> Despite what seems, superficially, to be a straightforward
> structure, the book in fact has idiosyncrasies which take some
> getting used to, although that is not adverse criticism of a
> textbook, which is for sustained study, not occasional hurried
> visits. For instance, in most cases, the main plates with their
> commentary, around which the narrative is structured, are
> supplemented by a further plate. This may be another view of the
> same manuscript, but as often as not it is of a different, though
> contemporary, manuscript. Apart from an indication of shelf-mark
> and title, however, nothing is said about it, and usually the
> manuscript index will offer no other location for information. This
> at first is confusing, but Roberts' introduction indicates that the
> supplementary plates are there to enable readers to pursue further
> their study of the particular script under discussion; that is no
> bad idea and the supplementary plates are, like the main plates,
> provided with line-numbers.
> I have one or two quibbles. The two tables of abbreviations on p.
> 11, for instance, are simply not clear enough (and there seems to
> be an error in the lay-out of the first). This problem derives
> partly, perhaps, from the large format of the book; that is
> essential to allow an adequate display of the manuscript facsimiles
> and their attendant commentary but is a less happy environment for
> the conventional presentation of information. It is disappointing
> also that there is no general index, which need not have taken up
> much space. There is of course an index of manuscripts, along with
> extremely useful annotated indices, both of the people and of the
> places named in the plates and also of the people named in the
> commentaries, but that is not much comfort for the student who
> wants, say, to know where to discover what "bookhand" or "punctus
> elevatus" mean, or who needs quickly to locate an explanation of
> "half-uncial." I take the point made by the author in her
> introduction, that the contents pages are in themselves an index,
> but that is not enough, and I hope that, when the book goes into a
> second edition, this lack is remedied.
> My admiration for this "Guide to Scripts" grew as I became used to
> it. It should be (and surely will be) on the shelf of every early
> medievalist. By today's standards, the hardback volume is not too
> expensive, but I trust that the British Library will soon issue a
> paperback edition also, at a far more attractive price, to ensure
> that it is accessible to the many students who desperately need it.
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