1. early scripts & the spread of Christianity

Beinecke MS 516: Moralia in Iob

Beinecke MS 516. Moralia in Job (fragment). Northumbria, between 700 and 750.

Uncial script was developed on the Continent before coming to Britain with the spread of Christianity. With some adaptations, it is the script used in the Book of Kells and other famous works of Irish monasticism. Beinecke MS 516 is a fragment of Gregory the Great’s Moralia in Job that was copied in Northumbria sometime between 700 and 750. Gregory wrote this commentary, his longest work, between 578 and 595, and in it he treats the story of Job, God’s faithful servant, whom he allowed to be tormented by Satan. One of Gregory’s first acts when he became pope in 596 was to send Augustine and forty men to Britain to convert the pagan population to Christianity. As part of the conversion effort, Augustine founded several monasteries, two of which — St. Paul at Jarrow and St. Peter at Wearmouth — provided instruction to the young Bede (672/673-735). It is possible, even likely, that Bede read the very manuscript displayed here (Beinecke MS 516).

Takamiya MS 90: Bible

Takamiya MS 90. Bible (“Werden Heptateuch”; fragment). Germany, Werden (?), c. 800-850. 

By the ninth century, the scribes in Britain had developed their own script called Insular or Anglo-Saxon minuscule, which is the handwriting seen on this fragment copied in Germany. The spread of various scripts mirrors the travels of monks and missionaries: Anglo-Saxons had been travelling to the Continent since at least the eighth century. 

Takamiya MS 43: Polychronicon

Takamiya MS 43. Ranulph Higden, Polychronicon. England, between 1325 and 1350. 

The illustration of the monk at his writing desk in the margin of Takamiya MS 43 shows clearly the process of writing in the Middle Ages.

1. early scripts & the spread of Christianity