Anglo-Saxon England

Research Article

The case for a West Saxon minuscule

Julia Cricka1

a1 University of Exeter

Julian Brown's famous analysis of what he termed the Insular system of scripts marked out a number of routes, now well trodden, through the debris of undated and unlocalized manuscript material from the pre-Viking-Age British Isles. Ever since, the best hope for students of palaeography seeking to date and localize examples of early Insular minuscule has been to follow Brown's classification and identify them as Type A or B, Northumbrian or Southumbrian, and Phase I or II. Brown's schema, however, offered orientation rather than a map. As with any typology, it depends on a very few fixed points, themselves unusual because of their lack of anonymity: gospelbooks from Ireland and Northumbria dated by the survival of rare colophons, manuscripts connected with St Boniface which show the operation of a unique editorial mind. Although Brown's system has been successfully applied to the output of scriptoria whose influences, practices, connections, even locations remain mostly unknown, complications inevitably arise. This article concerns one of them, the recycling in Phase II of a type of minuscule displaying the cursiveness and capriciousness characteristic of Phase I: Type B minuscule as illustrated by the script of St Boniface.