The Genesis of Books: Studies in the Scribal Culture of Medieval England in Honour of A.N. Doane

by Matthew Hussey

A book about books - how the medieval world in which they were conceived shaped the objects we know today.

This volume is about the book itself, as shaped and made by medieval scribes and as conditioned by the cultural understandings that were present in the world where those scribes lived. Questions relating to the provenance, compilation, script, function, and use — both medieval and modern — of manuscripts are raised and are resolved in a fresh manner. The focal point of the volume is Anglo-Saxon England, approached as a cultural crossroads east and west, with attention given to English manuscripts produced both before and after the Conquest. The book thus contributes to a reassessment of early English culture as complex, emergent, and multi-stranded.

A number of different literary genres and types are explored, ranging from devotional materials (e.g. psalters, sermons, and illustrated gospel books) to texts of a more worldly orientation. A number of plates illustrate the work of particular scribes. While some beautiful codices are showcased, the emphasis falls on plain books written in English, including the Vercelli Book, the Exeter Book, and the Blickling Homilies. Analyses of the history of palaeography and the theory of editing raise the point that whatever we know from old books is conditioned by the tools used to study them.