Seminar on the Evidence of Manuscripts (November 1991)

August 26, 2016 in Manuscript Studies, Seminars on Manuscript Evidence, Uncategorized

“Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 383”
20 November 1991

MS 383 Seminar Invitation 16 November 1991

16 November 1991

In the Series of Seminars on the Evidence of Manuscripts
The Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

Invitation in pdf.

The previous Seminar in the Series considered:

“Sixteenth-Century Transcripts of Ango-Saxon Texts”
Parker Library, October 1991


The Subject

The “workshop” was designed to focus on one manuscript: “Corpus Christi College, MS 383, a collection of legal and other texts”.  A small-format volume, but its texts pack a punch (not that our Invitation Letter put it so emphatically).

Accompanied by a full-page RSVP form, the 1-page Invitation Letter describes the plan:

Dating from the late eleventh or early twelfth century, it is one of the most important Anglo-Saxon legal codices. It apparently belonged to St. Paul’s, London. Recently it has been conserved and rebound for display at the major Anglo-Saxon exhibition to be held by the British Museum and British Library from early November to March.

Before, during and after conservation we examined it in detail. It has been photographed extensively in its former binding and while disbound. We are now preparing a short monograph on the manuscript, to analyse its texts, language, codicology, palaeography and layout, and to place it in its context of legal and other studies. As part of the planning for this monograph, the seminar will discuss the problems of the manuscript and related subjects. We hope you might attend to give your advice and help.

Now to the speakers and their subjects:

Our main speaker will be . He will start the discussion of MS 383 with an examination of its corrections and structure.

Mildred Budny will be present to comment on the nature of the codex and its scripts.

I [that is, R.I. Page] will add some remarks on the language of the texts and the competence of the main scribe.

Patrick will also present his recent work on the Lambarde transcripts now in California and their implications for sixteenth-century studies of Anglo-Saxon legal history.

We hope that others will join in the discussion. As the workshop will be run on informal lines, there is plenty of opportunity to respond to the speakers and to ask questions.

This Time Without a Manuscript on Hand
But Photographs Aplenty

As MS 383 will be part of the London exhibition at the time, it will not be available for examination during the seminar. Nor, for the same reason, will our other major Anglo-Saxon legal manuscript, MS 173A, containing the Parker Chronicle and Laws. Photographs will be available to illustrate various points. Other manuscripts, including sixteenth-century transcripts may emerge for inspection as they occur to us in the course of the session.

Front Cover of 'The Making of England' (1991), paperback version, showing the reconstructed helmet excavated from the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial.

Front Cover of ‘The Making of England’ (1991)

The Exhibition = The Making of England: Anglo-Saxon Art and Culture, AD 600–900 (1991).

In the catalogue for the exhibition, MS 173 and MS 383 are respectively Numbers 233 and 242 (pages 238–239 and 267–268).

MS 383 Seminar Invitation 16 November 1991

Invitation Letter for 16 November 1991


Invitations sent to:

David Wilson, Christine Fell, R.I. Page, Patrick Wormald, John Baker, Janet Bately, Carole Hough, Tim Graham, Mildred Budny, Leslie French, Barry Dobson, Paul Harvey, Catherine Hall, Malcolm Godden, Richard North and Tessa Webber

Present (according to the received RSVP forms):

Apologies only from Nigel Wilkins and Leslie French


As for only a few of the Seminars or Workshops in the Series, the Research Group Archives for the event itself are few.  In this case:

  • The original Invitation Letter and RSVP form, as printed out for circulation (now shown here and available as a pdf).
  •   An example of the envelope as addressed and sent for delivery (always, in the Archives, this element is represented by the one sent  to “Dr M.O. Budny” or a variant of her same name).
  • The group of completed and received RSVP forms, which carry the signatures and, in some cases, the messages of individual respondents.
  • Several letters or cards from respondents in addition to, or instead of, the RSVP forms.
  • A copy of the 2-page Handout, which reproduces in photocopy the 2 consecutive openings in N.R. Ker’s Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon (1957) [“Anglo-Saxon” here meaning the Old English language] for his Number 63, devoted to “Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 383” (pages 110–113).

That’s it. Of course, other parts of the Research Group Archives preserve elements relating to the workshop, the research on the manuscript and its photography, our conversations and correspondence with Patrick Wormald about this manuscript, among other things.  Including for other of the Seminars in the Series, for example:

Invitation to 'Prudentius Manuscripts' Seminar 5 June 1992

Invitation for 5 June 1992

Invitation for 'Corpus MS 201' Seminar 19 June 1993

Invitation for 19 June 1993

“Corpus Christi College MSS 23 and 223:
The Corpus Prudentius and the Saint-Bertin Prudentius”
Parker Library, June 1992


“Corpus Christi College MS 201:
An Eleventh-Century Collection of
Homiletic, Legal, and Other Texts in Latin and Old English”
Parker Library, June 1993

For both of these Seminars, it turned out that, although he had expected to speak (see their Reports), Patrick Wormald could not attend, so that one or other of us stood in his stead.  David Ganz in one case, Mildred Budny (using notes transcribed on an envelope by telephone the evening before the event) in the other.

But those are other stories, other types of manuscripts, and other sorts of problems.  (It’s Complicated.  But, then, that’s Manuscripts for you . . . )

The Workshop on Corpus MS 383 could, despite the absence of the manuscript itself, function fully well in the presence of the gathered experts and scholars, aided by ample photographs (prepared by the Senior Research Associate of the Parker Library, also the Photographer to the Leverhulme Trust Research Project and the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence) and by the accumulated dedication of research to and from an integrated set of fields of study.

As per usual, anyway in our experience.  As shown, for example, throughout the series of these Seminars.


Gold stamp on blue cloth of the logo of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence. Detail from the front cover of Volume II of 'The Illustrated Catalogue'In time, as the results of the long-term research work came to be published — as, when, and however possible (also a story, nay, saga) — the completed 2-volume Illustrated Catalogue of Insular, Anglo-Saxon, and Early Anglo-Norman Manuscript Art at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (1997) contains entries for both Parts of MS 173:

Its Parts I and II = Budny (1997) Numbers 11 (The Corpus Sedulius) and 4 (The Parker Chronicle and Laws).


Next in the Series of Seminars on the Evidence of Manuscripts

“Anglo-Saxon Writing Materials and Practices:
The Archaeological Record, Linguistic and Literary Evidence, and the Manuscripts Themselves”
Parker Library, January 1992