Laura Pani (Univ. Udine)

Strange Encounters in 9th-Century Manuscripts

The phenomenon of multiple hands sharing the copy of a book is quite familiar to anybody dealing with manuscripts of any epoch. Whereas the change of hands alongside the change of quire is a sign of an organized collaboration, more often the turnover of scribes seems to happen randomly, which raises wider questions on the ways and contexts of book production in the Middle Ages.

My paper aims to investigate this phenomenon with a focus on some 9th-century manuscripts; the research will therefore start from the three volumes of Bernhard Bischoff’s Katalog der festländischen Handschriften (Wiesbaden 1999, 2004, 2014).

In the very first part of my paper I would like to give a quick overview of the phenomenon of multiple hands in 9th-century manuscripts in numerical terms (how many manuscripts copied by just one hand? How many copied by scribes sharing the work in an organized way? How many copied by multiple hands recurring casually?).

In the main part of the paper I will investigate some specific cases, focusing on those manuscripts in which, according to Bischoff, the work was shared between scribes showing different graphic cultures and/or education and/or skills, as, for example:

  • ‘foreign’ hands in manuscripts of well-established origin (e.g. a Fulda-educated scribe in a manuscript copied in Reichenau);
  • cooperation between scribes of different origins (e.g. French and Italian scribes as in Bruxelles, Bibliothèque Royale, MS 9403);
  • ‘older’ and ‘younger’ hands (as referred by Bischoff, for example, in New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M. 768);
  • skilled and unskilled hands.

I aim to verify how frequently such cases occur in 9th-century manuscripts, refer them to specific situations, and, above all, try to explain the reasons of such interactions – in paleographical, cultural and possibly philological terms. I expect that this first check on the phenomenon of multiple, ‘inconsistent’ hands in 9th century manuscripts could contribute to a better knowledge of the system of book production in the Carolingian Age, which more and more often appears more dynamic and less autharchic than supposed.

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