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THE SCRIBES

Scribe 1
Scribe 2
Scribe 3
Scribe 4
Scribe 5
Scribe 6
Analysis of the hands

Six scribes have been identified writing in the psalter. The numbering of hands is based on Thomson’s analysis (1982, 119), apart from 3a, 3b, and 6:

Scribe 1

The principal hand of the Calendar, pp 2-15. This is a small neat script with a distinguishing characteristic in the abbreviation stroke, with two serifs, the left pointing upwards and the right pointing downwards.


Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 1 page 15


Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 1 page 2


Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 1 page 14


Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 1 page 285

Inscription to Psalm 105, p285
This inscription with its initial is pasted into the book on a separate piece of parchment. It has been identified by Wormald (AP, 6) and Thomson (1982, 119) as scribe 4, writer of the obits. The hand of Psalm 105 is firm, compact, controlled; a far cry from the loose and wavering letters of the obit writer. Comparisons with Scribe 1 are particularly clear where the matching green and red inks are used. In both cases a long horizontal flourish is used, the abbreviation stroke may be just a dash. The capital P, with its upper and lower serifs is the same form as Scribe 1, letter R. This inscription was added after the patch was stuck into the book: the mordant green of its letters has seeped through on to p286 while the green of the initial painting has not.

 

Scribe 2

The main hand of the Psalter. This scribe wrote everything from p75 to the end of the book, and the Köln leaf, with the exception of the outer bifolio of quire 6, at the very start of the psalms (pp 74, 91,92). The g’s have an egg shaped vertical top while the lower loop is horizontal in direction and can be rather angular. This lower loop is quite closed up. The bow of the a forms a continuous curve. The down stroke of the ampersand rhythmically swoops below the line, and the two loops are vertically above each other.

Spacing tends to be generous, with new verses beginning on a new line. The text generally forms a neat rectangular box around initials.


Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 2 page 75

 

Scribe 3

The scribe of the Alexis quire. This scribe wrote the Alexis Chanson pp57-68, the Emmaus account p69, the discourse on spiritual warfare on pp 71-2. The same hand added all the inscriptions to each psalm and canticle (except Ps 105), filling the gaps left by scribes 2 and 6. Scribe 3 produced his neatest writing for the Chanson itself (p57-68), clearly a set-piece of copying. The rest of his work has less rhythm or control.



Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 3 page 57, Alexis Chanson;



Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 3 page 279, Psalm rubric;


Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 3 page 72, Discourse


Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 3 page 68, end of Alexis Chanson, Gregory letter in Latin and French;


Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard

Scribe 3 page 11, Roger’s obit;


Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard

Scribe 3 page 11, Roger’s obit;



Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 3 page 11, Roger’s obit detail;


Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard

Scribe 3 page 11, Roger’s obit detail

The hand is small and neat but somewhat nervous and intense. The g is not usually closed, so it looks rather like an s. The ampersand has its downward diagonal stroke pulled smartly to the left at the bottom; the upper diagonal may or may not touch the upper bowl. The ct ligature surmounts the letters with a circumflex stroke which can be pointed and angular. The e and r often have a hairline ending. The a’s are usually headless.

The handling of space and use of colour is passionate and rather spontaneous. The words themselves seem more important than their sedate arrangement. Thus the metrical poem of St Alexis is written as continuous lines of prose instead of stanzas; its first three pages (pp57-9) are a riot of alternating blue and red lines with green initials, but the remainder sobers up with black ink. The spacing of lines and words on pp 72, erratic and compressed, suggests the scribe had no fixed lay out to follow.

Talbot’s identification, proposed in 1959, runs counter to more recent work. He says ‘the writer of the running titles over the psalms in the St Albans Psalter is not responsible for the Alexis story, but only for the obits in the calendar: his hand also appears in the breviary [B.L.MS Royal 2 A.x] and Pembroke College Cambridge, MS. 180’ (1998,27). An examination of the enlarged samples here shows quite clearly that psalm tags are by the Alexis quire writer.

3a Haney (1995,2) identifies another scribe for the Gregory letter (p68). The only discordant features I can see on these passages are the ampersands which do not pull to the left- whereas ALL the other Alexis ampersands do. Whether the upper diagonal joins the upper bowl is less important or consistent: Alexis uses both. Note also the initials in this section are different from that on P58

3b The obit of Roger the Hermit (p11) is attributed by Wormald (1960,276) and Thomson (1982, 119) to the Alexis quire scribe. Haney questions this (1995, 26-7). The ampersand and ct ligature, considered characteristic by Wormald, are not found in this passage. However the headless a, open g and the hairline serif on e are very similar to the Alexis quire scribe. The long tailed x (maxime) is also found in the Alexis quire.

The handling of space, crabbed, irregular and untidy, can be compared to p72. This evidence seems to support Wormald’s opinion that the Alexis quire scribe wrote the Roger obit.

 

Scribe 4

Main additions to Calendar, main group of obits
A loose, open hand, slightly quavery, with distinctive flourishes. The lanky ascenders are almost half the height of their letters. The thin underside of the e bow forms a sharp angle. Almost all these entries are written in a combination of red and pale green ink (much paler than the main calendar entries). They are clearly all written at the same time: the red nib is consistently narrower than the green nib throughout and the ink hues are uniform.


Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 4 page 14;


Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 4 page 9


Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 4 page 12;


Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 4 page 12

The only exceptions to this are a few entries where a dirty green/blackish ink is used, especially in June, July and October. This is never applied to the obits which remain consistent throughout, but it occurs on some of the added saints. October (p12) shows that this variation is not significant and was part of the same piece of work. October 1, Germani begins with a pale green G but the rest of the line is dirty green/black; S Fidis and Obit Ricard are normal red/green; Sce Etheldrithe is dirty green/black; and immediately below her Sce Fritheswithe begins with the green/black and ends in normal red.

 

Scribe 5

Calendar additions for 27 May and July 20, the dedication of Holy Trinity church and St Margaret. This is a bold, rather coarse hand using a broad nib and thick black ink.



Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 5 page 7, Dedication of the church

 

Scribe 6

The scribe who wrote the outer bifolio of quire 6, pp 74, 91, 92. Although very similar to Scribe 1, his letters are more angular. The lower loop of the g is completed by an angular barb. The a’s are distinctly pinched at the base of the bow. The upper loop of the ampersand is jauntily to the right side, while its down stroke stays neatly on the line.

Because this scribe was constrained for space, having to fit precisely onto his bifolio, his words curve tightly around the edges of the initials, he rarely starts a new verse on a new line, and at the bottom of p74 some words over reach the right margin.



Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 6 page 74,


Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard
Scribe 6 page 91

 

Analysis of the hands

Some of these hands are clearly identifiable with scribes who worked on other St Albans manuscripts. These are illustrated in Thomson (1982). Others cannot be identified, perhaps because they were itinerant scribes or perhaps their other work has been lost.

Scribe 1 The principal hand of the Calendar
This hand is very similar to B.L. Harl. MS.2624, f3v-46v, writing the marginal guide to Cicero’s Rhetorica de Inventione, a St Albans book (Thomson, 1982, 119, pl 61).

Scribe 2 The main hand of the Psalter.
This writing does not relate to any other surviving manuscript from St Albans.

Scribe 3, 3a, 3b. The scribe of the Alexis quire etc.
This scribe’s work is clearly represented at St Albans. The closest comparison is with a St Albans calendar, B.L. Egerton MS.3721, ff1v-7v (Thomson, 1982, pl 139). Distinct shared characteristics are the ampersand, headless a, open g, and the upward looping ct ligature. The jerky, impetuous rhythm of the words is also similar (compare Egerton f1v and Albani p69). The Egerton calendar includes feasts which were upgraded by Abbot Geoffrey (1119-46) with the exception of the feast of the Conception of the Virgin which is omitted. So, it is likely that the Egerton calendar was produced under Abbot Geoffrey’s auspices.

B.L.Harley 2624, Cicero’s Rhetorica de Inventione has also been associated with Scribe 3 by Wormald (its marginal comments) and by Thomson (its main text) (AP, 6, 276; Thomson, 1982, 25). These examples are less convincing than the Egerton calendar.

The spelling correction added to Roger’s obit by the writer of Ailwinus’ obit immediately beneath, proves that Roger’s obit was written before the main additions to the calendar and other obits (see 4, below).
This hand is the least professional in the book. It is passionate and excitable, caring more for content than appearance and neat spacing.

Pächt considered that the prologue to the Chanson of Alexis, and the dissertation on spiritual warfare were the personal compositions of this scribe, using such phrases as ‘it seems to me’ (p72). He also considered that this scribe was the chief artist, the Alexis Master himself (AP, 161). Thomson (1982, 43) considered that the strongly personal emphasis of these passages, plus the justifying letter of Pope Gregory, flitting between French and Latin language, suggests rather the presence of the commissioner, Abbot Geoffrey. The current investigation strongly endorses Thomson's view. The subject matter covered by Scribe 3 certainly reflects a strong element of choice by the patron. Moreover, the lay-out of his work generally intrudes, upsetting professionally arranged pages with an insistence and authority. In the later part of the psalms he appears to be dictating to the artist (see Understanding the Initials: the Title). He can also switch from a steady, copy book production (The Chanson, pp52-68) to spontaneous and even original composition (The Discourse, p71-2) in a way which would be understandable from a schoolmaster like Abbot Geoffrey.
According to Malcolm Parkes this is not monastic but a north French school writing, an identification which again points directly to Abbot Geoffrey himself (Nilgen, 1988,162).

Scribe 4 Main additions to Calendar, main group of obits
This hand is very similar to that of B.L. Royal 2 A.x. ff 1v-8, a calendar of St Albans Abbey. The Royal calendar also includes some of Abbot Geoffrey’s liturgical reforms (1119-46). The two texts share the lanky ascenders, angled e, and wavy w (Thomson, 1982, pl 138), but in the St Albans Psalter the writing looks less firm and more frail. Is it too subjective to suggest that this represents an accomplished writer in old age, writing slightly larger and shaky letters? The tonality of the inks suggests that, although the known death dates are up to 15 years apart, all the additions were made on one occasion, after Christina’s death.

This writing is identified by Thomson as Style II, exemplified at its best by Scribe B, a most prolific writer whose work appears after about 1140 (Thomson, 1982, 28-30, 119). Another scribe working in a very similar fashion wrote the dedication charter of Markyate Priory in 1145, B.L. Cotton Ch. XI, 8 (AP, pl 172).

Scribe 5 Calendar additions for 27 May and July 20
The addition for 27 May records the dedication of Markyate Priory, a ceremony performed by Bishop Alexander of Lincoln in 1145, so the notices must be after this date.

Scribe 6 The scribe who wrote the outer bifolio of quire 6, pp 74, 91, 92
Wormald considered that the entire psalter section was written by one unknown scribe. Peter Kidd (pers comm) was able to distinguish these pages from the rest of the psalms. He identified the hand as typical of Thomson’s Style II (Thomson, 2003). These pages reflect a change of plan and clearly replace an earlier bifolio. In other words, the first version of the psalter began with a completely different and unknown frontispiece which was replaced by a grand page of decorative initials (p73, EATUS VIR) followed by a slightly compressed psalm 1 and 2 (p74).(see Conclusion: The Date).

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