Dr Anna Dorofeeva

Scribal Collaboration and Intellectual Authority in Fulda: The Example of Leeuwarden, Provinciale Bibliotheek van Friesland, MS 55

We know that Anglo-Saxon script persisted at Fulda longer than other monasteries in early medieval Europe: 58 surviving manuscripts or fragments of manuscripts containing Insular script were made there in the first half of the ninth century. During this time, Fulda also gradually introduced Caroline minuscule script, which was promoted by Charlemagne and his court from Aachen. As Fulda’s school-master and abbot, Hrabanus Maurus, himself educated in the Insular tradition by Alcuin, oversaw these developments. From the second quarter of the ninth century efforts were made at Fulda to develop the ability to write highly calligraphic script, and to increase the number of their books. But, although these developments have been generally traced, particularly by Herrad Spilling in a series of articles, we still don’t know precisely how scribes collaborated, and what this meant for the intellectual, cultural and political development of the monastery. The script of the extant manuscripts is the only thing that can show who led the scriptorium, who taught handwriting and who was responsible for the introduction of new script – revealing relationship between students and masters, both local and insular.

As a preliminary study, I have examined a key manuscript now kept at the Frisian Provincial Library in Leeuwarden, which was copied on the order of Hrabanus Maurus from a manuscript owned by Einhard, Charlemagne’s biographer. I showed that early medieval books were so closely associated with their makers and owners not because these individuals were particularly authoritative – though of course abbots and bishops had a great deal of authority through their offices – but because it enabled people to identify each manuscript book, to remember what it contained, and to recall whether the contents were of the necessary quality.

Within monastic communities, and across networks of students and masters, patrons and clients, friends and relations, these memory aids were essential for knowing what intellectual resources were available and how to access them. The same applies to script. Caroline minuscule was an innovation that resulted from political impulses, and which – together with other developments in fields such as architecture and art – became a way for people to perform prestige and power. But in Fulda at least, the political implications of script choice are also tied up with memory and community. The methods scribes had of working together, the evidence of their training and the instructions they received during a period of transition from one system to another, all reflect the monastery's ideas of self-representation and strategies of creating lasting cohesion. The Leeuwarden manuscript demonstrates that there is palaeographical evidence to tell us how authority and the ownership of books intersected with training and collaboration between masters and pupils.

Dr Anna Dorofeeva, June 2019
Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University College Dublin
Twitter: @LitteraCarolina

Leeuwarden, Provinciale Bibliotheek van Friesland, MS 55, fol. 2r

Leeuwarden, Provinciale Bibliotheek van Friesland, MS 55, fol. 2r.
Reproduced with permission, @Tresoar

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