Stephen Harris

title.none: Scragg, ed., Textual and Material Culture (Stephen Harris )

identifier.other: baj9928.0402.047 04.02.47

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Stephen Harris , University of Massachusetts,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Scragg, Donald, ed. Textual and Material Culture in Anglo-Saxon England: Thomas Nothcote Toller and the Toller Memorial Lectures. Series: Publications of the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies, vol. 1. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2003. Pp. xx, 345. $130.00 0-8599-1773-8. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.02.47

Scragg, Donald, ed. Textual and Material Culture in Anglo-Saxon England: Thomas Nothcote Toller and the Toller Memorial Lectures. Series: Publications of the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies, vol. 1. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2003. Pp. xx, 345. $130.00 0-8599-1773-8. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Stephen Harris
University of Massachusetts

This is the first volume in the series Publications of the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies. It celebrates Thomas Northcote Toller, Chair of English Language at Manchester University from 1880 to 1903, and one of the most renowned lexicographers of Old English. His distinguished successor, Donald Scragg, established the Manchester Centre in 1984, and edits this volume. The Centre today claims an international reputation based in no small part on Scragg's tireless efforts. Since 1987, it has hosted an annual Toller Memorial Lecture given by a major figure in Anglo-Saxon studies. The first ten of these are reproduced here from the Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, some are updated, and an eleventh is taken from the 2002 Toller lecture. Three other essays were commissioned, and concern the life and work of Toller. The lectures are various in their subjects, but in their quality uniformly confirm the Center's high repute. Anglo-Saxonists will be glad to have them in one volume. A brief introduction by Donald Scragg reviews the history and impressive scholarly activity of the Centre.

The inaugural lecture belongs to Janet Bately of King's College London, who delivered "Manuscript Layout and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" in 1987. Bately knows better than any the Chronicle manuscripts, having written extensively on their relation, and having edited the Parker Chronicle (MS A, extant in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge Ms. 173) just prior to delivering this lecture. Bately begins with a review of stemma, as well as salient layout features (especially space-saving techniques) of the five major manuscripts. She thinks it likely "that a common exemplar of both MS A and MS E changed from half-page to full-page layout" (11) at annal 449, and that a shared archetype of all manuscripts had year-numbers from AD 1 onwards listed in the left-hand margin. On this conclusion, Bately refines an argument made by C. W. Jones in 1943, that Easter tables provide the chief inspiration for Anglo-Saxon chronicles. Also influential, Bately reminds readers, are regnal and episcopal lists, calendars, and the epitome, such as found in Bede, Isidore, and Jerome. Of most interest, though, is Jerome's Chronicle of Eusebius, which shares a number of characteristics with the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. In both, every year-number appears and eventful years spill over their contents onto barren years. Having compellingly made this connection, Bately concludes that, while Easter tables are compiled for practical ends, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was arranged "to demonstrate visually the passing of time." It was based, she explains, "on the layout of certain key Latin texts containing historical material" (20), Jerome's Chronicle not least among them.

Audrey L. Meaney of Cambridge contributes "Scyld Scefing and the Dating of BeowulfbAgain." A nineteen-page postscript reviews more recent arguments. Meaney looks at Beowulf 4-19, and 26-63, a genealogy of Danish kings. In it, two names, Scyld, the eponymous ancestor of "Beowulf Scyldinga," and Scef, of "Scyld Scefing," together constitute the primary evidence for a ninth-century date. Scyld's seaborne arrival, his funeral, and proximate mention of Scef also appear in Ealdorman Aethelweard's Chronicle of c. 855. Meaney claims that Aethelweard provided the genealogy for the Beowulf-poet. Aethelweard, the argument continues, "took the genealogy from his source Chronicle," by which is meant a version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle "midway between the earliest version evidencedbthat used by the St Neot's compilerband the common archetype" (28). But Janet Bately's work, especially her 1991 volume on the Chronicle manuscripts, compromised Meaney's conclusion. In a postscript, Meaney now allows that rather than borrowing Scyld's genealogy from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Aethelweard may have "borrowed from a version of Beowulf" (55). It seems the genealogy cannot help to date the poem, after all. The essay is nevertheless useful as a review of Aethelweard scholarship, ship burial, hagiographic analogues (especially Christine Rauer's fascinating work), and, given the state of the question at the time, for the ingenuity of its argument.

Helmut Gneuss of the University of Munich, among other things compiler of the indispensable Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts (Arizona, 2001), offers "The Study of Language in Anglo-Saxon England." In it, he calls for a comprehensive study of English philology and offers this paper as "a brief survey of the linguistic knowledge and interests of the Anglo-Saxons" (77). Gneuss reviews the knowledge Anglo-Saxons are likely to have had of various grammarians, and of various categories of linguistic interest, such as grammar, glossa, etymology, differentia (synonyms), and rhetoric. The essay is brought up to date with a series of notes listing current studies. Along with Gneuss' own English Language Scholarship (Binghamton, 1996), Vivien Law's Grammar and Grammarians in the Early Middle Ages (London, 1997), and Martin Irvine's The Making of Textual Culture (Cambridge, 1994), this essay is a starting-point for any research into Anglo-Saxon grammatical knowledge. Finally, Gneuss identifies desiderata in current research: "translation, interlinear and syntactical glossing, linguistic borrowing (including loan-translation, semantic loans and loan syntax), the knowledge of foreign languages generally among Anglo-Saxons, the origins and development of Standard Old English, and, finally, the impact of the English missionaries' language on early German" (pp. 101-02). Scholars are now working in these areas, but much remains to be done. Professor Gneuss has provided them with a valuable guide.

Michael Lapidge, then Erlington and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Cambridge (now of Notre Dame University), gave "Textual Criticism and the Literature of Anglo-Saxon England." It reviews principles of textual criticism, focusing especially on the merits of paleography and manuscript studies. Textual criticism, as A. E. Housman wrote, is "the science of discovering error in texts and the art of removing it" (p. 108). Housman, explains Lapidge, exercised great influence on English-speaking editors, and bred in them "an unfortunate contempt for manuscripts and palaeography" (p. 111). But unlike the classical Latin tradition on which Housman based his steely maxims, Anglo-Latin and Old English present singular difficulties. Among these are the role of the autograph in scribal revision; the difficulty of establishing a fixed text in light of wide variation (such as exhibited in liturgical texts and glossaries, for example); the caprice of Medieval Latin orthography; and grammar corrupted by solecisms sometimes scribal, sometimes authorial. Lapidge concludes that if "the error is thought by the editor to be scribal rather than authorial, then--in my view--it is his duty to correct it" (125). A tendency among editors of Old English has been to reproduce a manuscript, rather than to emend a text. In a postscript, Lapidge calls for careful emendation against the "arch-conservatism" of defaulting to a diplomatic reading. He ends by bemoaning "the decline of philological expertise" in the twentieth century.

In "The Search for the Anglo-Saxon Oral Poet," Roberta Frank of Yale describes how Anglo-Saxons in three periods "built up a picture of a proto-English poet" (139). These pictures, she argues, are built in every age according to its own devices. The opening lines are worth recounting:

Each age gets the Anglo-Saxon poet it deserves: an unlettered farmhand suffering from singer's block; a king's thane reciting dark deeds done long ago in Germanic forests; a preacher harping a runaway congregation back to church; a long-haired, long-in-the-tooth hippie with tears that almost flow; a seer maintaining a direct line to Woden; an author-function operating on a binary code of praise and blame, processing the memory of the tribe, storing information in formulaic units, and checking for transmission errors; a slender-fingered blonde in a grey headdress kneading dough with one hand and composing songs to the harp with the other. (137)

In fact, there is no evidence for such a poet in Anglo-Saxon England (although there is in Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and Scandinavia). Frank recounts the hunt for the elusive scop, seemingly "chosen by central casting" (152), straining against thin evidence, from images drawn by twelfth-century historians, eighteenth-century scholars, and their twentieth-century protegees. The "old departed Bard," in the words of Robert Holmes, leaves "everything but his eloquence to the imagination" (p. 159). Frank adds a postscript which nails down the coffin lid a little more firmly.

Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe of Notre Dame in "Source, Method, Theory, Practice: On Reading Two Old English Verse Texts" critiques Allen Frantzen, whose Desire for Origins among other things voiced concern over undertheorized source projects like the Fontes Anglo-Saxonici. O'Brien O'Keeffe distinguishes between theoretical and historicist discourses, clears source study of its positivist taint, and concludes that both discourses converge upon "a 'documentary' approach to textual relationships" (179). Frantzen responded in the journal Aestel in 1994. O'Brien O'Keeffe claims Frantzen conflates "origin" and "source." Using a telling example of the Old English dialogue of Solomon and Saturn in two editions (J. M. Kemble in 1848, and Robert Menner in 1941), O'Brien O'Keeffe describes a difference between remote origins (Kemble's focus) and tangible sources (Menner's focus). Especially intriguing is her recontextualization of line 330b. Rather than view it, as Menner does, as a riddle, O'Brien O'Keeffe suggests an emendation within a context of "a discussion of negative concepts in the circle of Alcuin" (175). She pursues some implications of this recontextualization with regard to sources and origins, and offers some working principles for source study. A postscript offers more recent studies.

In "The Dynamics of Literacy in Anglo-Saxon England," George Hardin Brown of Stanford considers "mainly from manuscript evidence the modes of acquisition of literacy itself in Latin and Old English" (211). This lecture complements well Gneuss and Frank, demonstrating a general interest in textuality and literacy during the span of these lectures, and identifies three general stages of literacy. Bede in the seventh and early eighth centuries taught his students Latin in Latin. The vernacular was not prized as a pedagogical aid, and Brown reminds us that before the early ninth century, no Latin manuscripts are glossed or translated into the vernacular. Irish practice at the time employed the vernacular, and perhaps influenced later Anglo-Saxons such as King Alfred, who marks the apogee of the second stage. The third stage revolves around the Benedictine Reform of the tenth century during which Old English is regularly used for instruction. Brown describes basic class texts, chiefly the Psalter, through which his thesis is borne out clearly. Brown concludes that "if it had not been for instruction in Latin, there would have been no Old English literacy" (211). This is an elegant and profoundly learned essay. Thankfully, it gives weight, not wings, to current debates about Anglo-Saxon literacy.

Richard N. Bailey of the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne offers the non-specialist a wonderful introduction to sculptured crosses in Anglo-Saxon England with "'What mean these stones': Some Aspects of pre-Norman Sculpture in Cheshire and Lancashire." He begins with the Sandbach crosses, then demonstrates the complex liturgical and patristic knowledge needed to decipher cross iconography (using also the Hornby shaft and a cross-head from Winwick), concluding it is a monastic, not a popular art. Then, he identifies in north Lancashire a pre-Viking "concentration of sculpture in the Lune valley" (223) and a local, "particular form of monastic parochia." Crosses without figures, though, present a different kind of problem. Bailey brilliantly weaves together three strands of evidence to show how and why stone sculptors designed as they did. The first comprises evidence of painted crosses and stone panels (especially the Penrith plaque); the second comprises evidence of attached metalwork, glass, paste, and jewels; and the third comprises examples of skeuomorph, "the adoption from a model of features or forms which are appropriate to the medium of that model" (229)--stone mimicking textiles through a carved fold, for example. The raised zig-zag patterns on Hexam, Ripon, and Jarrow carvings divide triangles possibly painted red to mimic cloisonne garnet. After a convincing list of examples, Bailey concludes that much Anglo-Saxon sculpture should be seen as "highly coloured, decorated in metallic and jewelled hues and devices, and strewn with glass, paste and metal fittings" (237). Such crosses recollected the crux gemmata, a jeweled commemorative cross erected on Golgotha and imagined in the Dream of the Rood. Anglo-Saxons, Irish, and Picts, Bailey concludes, "were reproducing Golgotha in Britain" (238).

Joyce Hill of the University of Leeds speaks to Aelfric's anxieties about translation in her "Translating the Tradition: Manuscripts, Models and Methodologies in the Composition of Aelfric's Catholic Homilies." Beginning with Aelfric's prefatory letter to Sigeric in Cambridge University Library Gg.3.28, Hill discusses transferre and interpretatio. Aelfric's sermons, as they vulgarized patristic sources, were "a reforming act" (245) balancing curatorial need and traditional authority. In a description of that authority, Hill notes that Paul the Deacon is not included in a list of cited authors, and suggests this is because Aelfric didn't know the compiler of a chief homiletic source. She also concludes that Aelfric had access to an augmented copy of the homiliary, and chose to ignore homilies by Leo and Maximus because theirs were not sufficiently exegetical for his purposes. Aelfric used Smaragdus for phrase-by-phrase commentary, and Haymo of Auxerre for associated Scripture. Hill calls this a "chain of authority" that was ironically a "reformist position" (257). Reform for Aelfric meant ensuring, as had the Carolingians, both patristic teaching and "the accuracy and purity of manuscript transmission." This rigor was at risk in the bilingual environment in which Aelfric uneasily vulgarized and simplified tradition.

David A. Hinton of the University of Southampton reviews and digests recent archaeological findings on metalwork in "Anglo-Saxon Smiths and Myths." He suggests that by the tenth century there was a "distinct craft specialism" (263) among goldsmiths, iron mongers, and perhaps sword-makers. Hinton also suggests that as early as the sixth century, only a few specialized centers produced metal objects. Evidence of distribution over long distances, coinage, and motifs suggests this. Also suggestive is a lack of metalworking dross at places like Yeavering and Bamburgh in Northumbria. Kent poses an exception, and Hinton discusses Aethelberht's law code which offers special protection for the king's smith. He discusses the story of Weland at length and the "magic" of the smith's work. All this leads to a suggestion that early Anglo-Saxon smiths were not seen as craftsmen until the coming of Christianity (273). Wic sites, itinerant moneyers, and Norman antipathy for estate smithies are also discussed. A postscript explains new studies of grave goods and ironworking evidence, especially Dunadd in Argyllshire, Wharram Percy in Wiltshire, and Snape in East Anglia.

The next four years of lectures are unfortunately not reproduced. Then, as part of the volume's biographical cursus, Peter Baker of the University of Virginia offers "Toller at School: Joseph Bosworth, T. Northcote Toller, and the Progress of Old English Lexicocraphy in the Nineteenth Century," the Toller lecture of 2002. It is an arresting review of Toller's successful work in a trying environment, and precedes "T. Northcote Toller and the Making of the Supplement to the Anglo-Saxon Dictionary," by Dabney Anderson Bankert of James Madison University. Bankert gives a lively account of Bosworth's apparent "philological evil" (307), and Toller's efforts to overcome its legacy. In "Items of lexicographical interest in the Toller Collection, John Rylands University Library of Manchester," Alexander R. Rumble of the University of Manchester examines 288 items in Toller's bequest to the John Rylands Library, chiefly two annotated copies of Bosworth's 1838 dictionary. Finally, Joana Proud of the University of Manchester offers a brief biography in "Thomas Northcote Toller, 'This fearless and self-sacrificing knight of scholarship."

Scragg, who edited an essential collection of essays on the Battle of Maldon, is to be credited with another collection sure to be of inestimable use to Anglo-Saxonists. This volume, like Toller's legacy, testifies to the enduring contribution of the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies and its founder.