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:
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.
to Psalm 105, p285
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.
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.
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.
to Calendar, main group of obits
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.
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.
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.
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
Scribe 2 The main
hand of the Psalter.
Scribe 3, 3a, 3b.
The scribe of the Alexis quire etc.
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).
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.
Scribe 4 Main additions
to Calendar, main group of obits
Scribe 5 Calendar
additions for 27 May and July 20
Scribe 6 The scribe
who wrote the outer bifolio of quire 6, pp 74, 91, 92
collaboration between History of Art
and Historic Collections
University of Aberdeen - King's College - Aberdeen - AB24 3SW