Script

Most of the Vernon manuscript was copied by one scribe. A second scribe contributed, probably towards the end of the production process. This second scribe copied the Table of Contents and another text. His work is found in the opening section of the volume. He also inserted some headings in red ink where space had been left for them by the main scribe.

Both scribes used a script developed for making books called anglicana formata. However the work of the two scribes can easily be distinguished. The main scribe has a very neat, rounded hand. He is careful to distinguish letters that could be confused, such as y and þ. (Called thorn, þ was used where modern English has th.) His thorn has a little curl at the bottom of the first stoke, and a rounded second stroke. His y comprises a long angled stroke with a branch to the left above the line. Most distinctive of his hand is the letter w, in which the first stroke is slightly higher than the rest of the letter.

The second scribe’s hand is less careful and regular. It gives the impression of haste. His thorns loop back on themselves. The tail on his y often curls to the right. Distinctive of his hand is t, which is usually looks like a c with a horizontal line on top.

Traces of the scribes’ working practices may still be seen. Slight roughness of the vellum can reveal where a scribe has corrected an error by scraping away a mistake and re-writing. On the edges of some leaves there are notes in tiny writing, where the scribe has noted the text of headings or other material to be inserted later in red ink. There are also traces of the wider world of scribal activity. On one page someone has written a note about a commission to copy ‘three or four quires [gatherings] and three leaves’ from a given point in the text.

The hands of the two scribes have been found in other manuscripts. The main scribe copied a substantial part of the Simeon manuscript, London, British Library, MS Additional 22283. The second scribe contributed to two manuscripts of the Prick of Conscience, Oxford, Trinity College, MS 16B and Holkham, Earl of Leicester’s Library, Holkham Hall, MS 668. He also copied legal documents, so he was clearly versatile and may have been primarily a scrivener.

 

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