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108 Paratext and meaning in Late Medieval Bibles 3 Introduction The textus and oath-books of the previous chapter conveyed in their physicality a particular view of the Bible. Medieval records and surviving manuscripts attest to the great effort invested in lavish and iconic binding, even at the expense of the biblical text. The use of these books and their sacrality relied on a backward glance: the glorified past of Chaucer’s ‘Britoun book’, the ‘time beyond memory’ of the Chester ‘Jurybook’, or the antiquity of the oath-books of the archbishop of York (as well as that of President Obama) all show these books being employed as relics from a glorified past, in whose authority those present wished to share. In late medieval England such Gospel books were becoming an archaic remnant. While they were used in liturgy and ritual, another type of Bible emerged. Adhering to a revolutionary paratext, these new full Bibles (or pandects) became a standard for Scripture, replicated in Bibles in manuscript and printed forms for centuries to come. A far cry from silver gilt and jewelled bindings of earlier texts, these were mundane objects encased in boards and skin. They presented the biblical text through a careful array of layout and addenda which forms the subject of this chapter. At the end of the twelfth century and the beginning of the thirteenth a new type of Bible was developed. This was the period when the first universities were established, in which a growing number of students and lecturers engaged in the study of theology and law through the analysis of key texts and their glosses, from Gratian’s Decretum to the Bible. They produced study aids which relied on textual clarity and easily locatable textual divisions, benefitting from the availability of cheaper and portable books. Their needs were met by urban and lay workshops, where professional scribes practised a minute Gothic hand, written on exceptionally MUP_Poleg_BibleMedievalEngland.indd 108 10/07/2013 16:25 109 paratext and meaning thin vellum. The combination of need and expertise led to the creation of a new type of Bible, small in size and with aids to assist use and reference. The new pandects became an immediate success. They emerged from the centres of learning in Paris and Southern England to spread rapidly throughout Western Europe. Hundreds of manuscripts nowadays bear witness to one of the most prolific books of the later Middle Ages. The proliferation of Latin Bibles did not reach all strata of church and society indiscriminately. The survey conducted in Chapter 2 from select dioceses showed that only a small fraction (about 1 per cent) of parish churches held a Bible, and that only four extant manuscripts could be assigned to such churches. Combined evidence from English wills prior to 1409 records thirty-six privately owned Latin Bibles.1 Out of these, one was owned by Elizabeth de Burgh, Lady of Clare (d. 1360, founder of Clare College, to which the Bible was bequeathed); six by princes and princesses (such as Isabella of Castile, daughter of Pedro the Cruel (d. 1392), and Thomas of Woodstock,sonofEdwardIII(d.1397,whoalsoownedaWycliffiteBible)); one by a knight in Yorkshire; another by a London embroiderer (Brouderer ) and yet another by chaplain. The remaining twenty-six Bibles were owned by monks, friars, bishops, and university masters. This strongly suggests that in late medieval England Latin Bibles rarely existed beyond the realm of universities, cathedrals, monasteries, and friaries, in whose library records they appear time and again. Among the primary users of these manuscripts were the friars, whose education, poverty and itinerant life helped spread these Bibles far and wide. Biblical paratext underwent a major transformation at the turn of the thirteenth century.Its legacy is felt to the present day.However,the identity of this group of manuscripts, which I have chosen to name ‘Late Medieval Bibles’ (for reasons detailed below), is still unclear. Scholars of biblical manuscripts have followed primarily questions of origins and accuracy, rather than reception and readership. An interest in the origins of this new type of Bibles has led researchers to concentrate on the end of the twelfth century and the beginning of the thirteenth, when these biblical manuscripts took form. A closely knit group of manuscripts was therefore delineated, to assist in ascertaining the evolution of biblical manuscripts. Studying especially the university of Paris, a well-known hub of biblical creativity at the time, Paris Bibles have been seen as witnesses to the early thirteenth century...


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