Conquest and manuscript culture

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


I can summarize my argument in a single image. Around 1110 a Canterbury scribe copied a charter onto the endleaves of an ancient Roman gospel book (Fig. 7.1). He recorded the name of the king, Henry I, and he interlined the styles and surnames of the witnesses in French fashion; but the anomalous feature is the script. Nearly sixty years after the Norman Conquest, in the reign of the third Norman king, a scribe at the heart of the Anglo-Norman establishment wrote Latin using a distinctively English script, first attested at Canterbury in the reign of Cnut, nearly a century earlier.

Where was he trained and by whom? He was not a peripheral figure. His hand appears in a number of Canterbury books, including liturgica, the lifeblood of any monastic institution. He most certainly was not alone: the continuity of English script in his community, St Augustine's Canterbury has been well documented. Scarcely discussed, however, are the mechanisms which allowed the perpetuation of native scribal traditions in the new regime beyond the first generation. The prevailing model is acculturation: that scribes trained in the pre-Conquest Anglo- Latin tradition worked alongside continental scribes immediately after 1066, but that ‘after thirty years or so’ that style was subsumed into an Anglo-Norman amalgam. If native scribes and scribal traditions retained a separate identity well after 1066, however, not just in the writing of English – as has recently been argued very strongly – but in Latin, too; and not in one or two isolated centres, but in institutions across southern England, as will be argued here, then we are presented with a conceptual challenge. This practice begs many questions about the circumstances which enabled the perpetuation of such plural traditions: about the training and mobility of individuals; about their place in the institution and the duties which they discharged, and about their relationship with the hierarchies which governed them.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConquests in Eleventh-Century England: 1016, 1066
EditorsLaura Ashe, Emily Joan Ward
Place of PublicationWoodbridge
PublisherBoydell & Brewer
ISBN (Electronic)9781787448360
ISBN (Print)9781783274161
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Medieval history
  • History
  • England
  • Norman Conquest
  • Manuscripts, Medieval


Dive into the research topics of 'Conquest and manuscript culture'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this