- The Community of St. Cuthbert in the Late Tenth Century: The Chester-le-Street Additions to Durham Cathedral Library A.IV.19 by Karen Louise Jolly
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“This book,” Karen Jolly states at the outset of her work, “examines the daily life and thought world of a tenth-century Northumbrian religious community through the lens of a surviving service book manuscript” (xv). Indeed, she has precedent for her approach of extrapolating broader themes from a detailed study of one manuscript; one thinks perhaps of Michelle Brown’s The Lindisfarne Gospels: Society, Spirituality and the Scribe (London 2003) for Jolly’s particular geographic region. She uses the tenth-century liturgical book commonly known as the Durham Collectar or the Durham Ritual (Durham, Chapter Library, MS A.IV.19) to discuss reform, liturgical practice, the use of manuscripts, and the role of the vernacular in tenth-century Northumbria. Although the commentary is innovative at points, however careful Jolly attempts to be in her observation of the manuscript and however imaginative she tries to be when describing the community, ultimately the manuscript itself cannot bear the full weight of her analysis.
Jolly begins with a chapter entitled “History: The Temporal and Geographic Landscape in Northumbria,” in which she attempts to connect “geographic space, the sociopolitical human realm, and the thought world of religious belief” (xix). One would have liked to have seen a more nuanced view of the relationship between Northumbria and Wessex in her discussion of the tenth-century reform; while her treatment of the geography of the region and the political context is not particularly original, it is certainly useful in establishing the context of the production of the manuscript.
In chapter 2, “Biography: Aldred and His World,” Jolly attempts to fill in gaps in the biography of Aldred, the manuscript’s glossator and corrector. She uses Aldred’s colophon in the Lindisfarne Gospels (London, British Library, MS Cotton Nero D.iv) as well as his colophon in A.IV.19 to construct a human portrait of the scribe, a man who was “an aspiring poet and a budding philolo-gist” (39). Although her interpretation of the colophon in the Lindisfarne Gospels is not entirely convincing—she glides over the fact that some lines are in Old English while others are in Latin without noting the significance of the switch, for instance—her insistence on seeing Aldred as a person, not just as a scribe, is original and thought-provoking. In the third chapter, “Paleography and Codicology,” Jolly focuses on the ordering of the quires, arguing that the manuscript was created as a series of discrete booklets only later bound into one book. She limits her codicological analysis to a discussion of the quires and their contents, which may not provide all the insight into the use of the book for which the reader might have wished. Her theory that the quires all circulated as separate booklets is intriguing, but examples of similar usage might have made the argument even more convincing.
In chapter 4, “Liturgy: The Community of St. Cuthbert at Prayer,” Jolly discusses the extent to which A.IV.19 can be described as a service book, which she defines as a manuscript containing materials “intended for public performance” (113). She recurrently refers to the liturgy as performance (113, 152, 205), an odd choice for a scholar who insists on taking the “sacramental thought world” (216) of the tenth century seriously. The prayers she describes surely were prayed as well as read, spoken, and performed. Unfortunately, Jolly is unclear whether she thinks the book was used liturgically or not (110) and what that use might have looked like; a practical, detailed discussion of the [End Page 283] nature of the community, the audience of the manuscript, would have been useful. She does think that some of the additional prayers were inserted with the goal of adapting the monastic reform from Wessex for the secular North-umbrian community, and she...