E. Ann Matter

title.none: Bischoff, Manuscripts and Libraries (Matter)

identifier.other: baj9928.9503.010 95.03.10

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: E. Ann Matter, University of Pennsylvania.

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1995

identifier.citation: Bischoff, Bernhard. Manuscripts and Libraries in the Age of Charlemagne. Translated and edited by Michael Gorman. Cambridge Studies in Palaeography and Codicology, 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. ISBN: ISBN 0521383463.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 95.03.10

Bischoff, Bernhard. Manuscripts and Libraries in the Age of Charlemagne. Translated and edited by Michael Gorman. Cambridge Studies in Palaeography and Codicology, 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. ISBN: ISBN 0521383463.

Reviewed by:

E. Ann Matter
University of Pennsylvania.

Th e death of Bernhard Bischoff in 1991 marked the end of a great era of the study of medieval manuscript hands and manuscript collections. This seems, somehow, a nineteenth-century era. Although Bischoff was born just at the turn of the century (1906), he shared with Ludwig Traube and Paul Lehmann, his predecessors in the Lehrstuhl für lateinische Philologie des Mittelalters at the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, an encyclopedic knowledge of medieval Latin manuscripts: the materials from which they were made, the hands in which they were written, the collections in which they were found in the Middle Ages, the types of literature they transmitted, the reading culture that received them, their modern whereabouts. Between 1953 and 1975, Bischoff held court in Munich, teaching generations of young medievalists from all over the world the intricacies and joys of work with medieval manuscripts. He was especially renowned for his knowledge of Carolingian manuscripts, so much so that those of us who do work in this rich and fascinating period but never did "go study with Bischoff" are well aware of standing outside a magic inner circle.

Fortunately, though, Bischoff wrote copiously throughout his life. He edited a number of medieval Latin texts, and prepared for publication the facsimile edition of the Carmina Burana manuscripts in Munich. Bischoff's books include a two-volume study of the Carolingian scriptoria and libraries in South-east Germany, and monographs on the scriptoria and libraries of Wurzburg, Salzburg, the monastery of Lorsch, and the school of Canterbury. In all of these volumes Bischoff provided essential guides to scholars working on Carolingian culture, but he was perhaps even better known for his illuminating articles on medieval manuscript production and collection. The bibliography included in this volume of collected essays (pp. 161-164) covers only the years 1981 to 1993, but includes eight books and critical editions written alone or with others, including revised editions of previously published works; the translation of his Palaeographie des römischen Altertums und des abendlaendischen Mittelalters (second edition Berlin, 1986) into English, French, and Italian; and over 20 published articles and reviews.

1981 is a logical time to begin this bibliography, since it is the year of the publication of the third volume of Bischoff's Mittelalterliche Studien, the marvelous collection of articles and papers written over a period of twenty years. Five of the seven essays collected in this volume were previously collected in German in Mittelalterliche Studien. Gorman says in his introduction (p. xi) that the idea of an English translation of Bischoff's most frequently cited essays dates from the appearance of this third volume. This is not surprising, since Mittelalterliche Studien gives the most wide-ranging view of Bischoff's genius. We are very lucky to have some of these essays in English.

Gorman is a logical person to have done this translation, since he is a former student of Bischoff who made his own mark on the world of Carolingian manuscript studies with a series of articles tracing the manuscript transmission of the works of Augustine. The translations are clear and faithful. Of all the many selections of material possible to the editor of Bischoff's works, those chosen reflect a wise -- and sensible -- introduction to Carolingian manuscript studies. The book begins with a wonderful map entitled "Writing Centres and Writing Provinces in the Age of Charlemagne," marking the sites of monastic houses, bishoprics and archbishoprics where manuscript production took place. The seven chapters which follow are: "Manuscripts in the Early Middle Ages," "Manuscripts in the Age of Charlemagne," "The Court Library of Charlemagne," "The Court Library under Louis the Pious," "Libraries and Schools in the Carolingian Revival of Learning," "Palaeography and the Transmission of Classical Texts in the Early Middle Ages," and "Benedictine Monasteries and the Survival of Classical Literature." The book thus leads the reader through basic information about early medieval manuscripts, the role of the courts of two Carolingian monarchs and of monastic and cathedral schools in manuscript production, and the particular transmission of classical texts. Since there is so much in Bischoff's legacy to choose from, one could easily ask for a different selection, but this is one that will be particularly useful to students and scholars approaching the subject with little knowledge of Bischoff's work. This will surely have the result Gorman desires, to bring Bischoff's theories and methods into a larger circle of scholarly analysis and debate than that of specialists arguing over particulars of manuscripts and hands.

Since the translations were done over a number of years, Gorman was able to work together with Bischoff, checking choices of expression, and sometimes adding new material to the notes. Bischoff actually prepared two lists of manuscripts specifically for this volume: one of grammatical manuscripts from Charlemagne to Louis the Pious, appended to chapter 5, on libraries and schools; and one of classical manuscripts rightly and wrongly attributed to the School of Tours, appended to chapter 6, on palaeography and the transmission of classical texts. There is as well an index prepared by Gorman of over one thousand manuscripts cited in the essays (pp. 165-178).

This volume will be of great assistance to young scholars who are just beginning to study manuscripts and need to get a sophisticated, yet comprehensible, introduction to the nuts and bolts of the field. For scholars young and old who work on Carolingian culture, it will be indispensable. It will continue Bischoff's life work of training scholars to work with primary source materials in the Carolingian age. We should be grateful to Michael Gorman for his hard work and hard choices. And we should hope that Cambridge University Press will repay our gratitude by publishing the book in a paper edition at a price that makes it possible to order it for graduate seminars.