The script of Matthew Paris and his collaborators
: A digital approach

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Matthew Paris (c.1200-1259) compiled a number of influential historical and hagiographical works at St Albans abbey. The edition of most of his historical works in the Rolls Series between 1858 and 1890 served as a springboard for scholarship on Paris, with a particular emphasis on authorship and the sources for his historical texts. In 1953 and 1958, Richard Vaughan published an acclaimed article and a monograph, in which, apart from adding to the authorship debate, he provided the first systematic description of Paris’s hand.
Vaughan’s works have been at the core of all subsequent scholarship on Paris. However, there has not been any new scholarship dealing with Paris’s manuscripts from a palaeographic perspective since 1958. Vaughan’s description of Paris’s hand was impressionistic in nature and left out aspects like abbreviation and punctuation, while he determined the number of collaborating scribes to be fifteen without providing a description of those hands. The application of quantitative methods to palaeography, and subsequently the development of the Digital Humanities allows for more questions to be asked: What are the palaeographic characteristics of each collaborating scribe? What is the extent of the contribution of each of them? Did the hand of Matthew Paris change through time? In what ways?
This project is based on the analysis of ten manuscripts on Vaughan’s list, and employs palaeographic, digital and quantitative methods. The digital framework Archetype has been used – under the name MParisPal – to create scribal ‘profiles’ made up of individual annotations of characters made on digital images, which allows to create more detailed scribal descriptions and opens up the possibility of cross-comparison. Overall, this project provides three main outcomes: firstly, a new and more complete description of Paris’s hand; secondly, a quantitative survey of the evolution of Paris’s hand through time; and thirdly, a description of all collaborating scribal hands in the analysed manuscripts, and of the extent of their contribution. These outcomes will broaden existing knowledge of book production at St Albans abbey in the thirteenth century; more generally of monastic book production in the Late Middle Ages; and of the development of the Gothic scripts. It also provides an online repository of manuscript images and palaeographic annotations that can be enlarged, continued or adapted in future research projects.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorJulia Crick (Supervisor) & Peter Stokes (Supervisor)

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