Referring to Scribal Hands: An Open Question
I am wrestling these days with the problem of how to refer clearly and unambiguously to scribal hands in publications. A core principle of the DigiPal project is that we should be able to compare large numbers of scribal hands, and refer to them in printed books and journal articles as evidence for palaeographical argument. The problem, though, is how to refer to these hands clearly and unambiguously: clearly, so that the (informed) reader knows immediately which scribal hand I mean, but also unambigiously, for example so that they can easily be found in the DigiPal database. Furthermore, whatever method we use must also 'scale up' to accommodate relatively large numbers of references. Certainly 'the scribe of Firenze, Biblioteca Laurenziana, MS. Plut. XVII.20' is clear, and if there is really only one scribe in the whole manuscript then it is also unambiguous, but if we need to refer to ten or fifteen such scribal hands in one footnote then lengthy references like this quickly become unworkable.
Option One: Catalogue Numbers
One possibility is to use reference numbers for each scribal hand. This is generally done in studies of Anglo-Saxon charters, where scholars often refer to the 'Sawyer' number (for which see further the Electronic Sawyer), although one must always remember that Sawyer's numbers refer to texts, not physical items. In my previous work, I used this and the relevant number in Helmut Gnuess's Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts to identify the manuscript (or part thereof), followed by a hyphen and number for each scribal hand. For example, Cambridge University Library Ff.1.23 is number 4 in Gneuss' Handlist, and so to refer to the first hand in that manuscript I used 'G.4-1', the second hand becomes 'G.4-2' and so on. A table was then provided to list the manuscripts and also define precisely which scribal hand was which. This resulted in footnotes like the following:
G.54-2, G.774-1, G.774-2, G.774-4, S.1399-1, S.1394-1 (all probably or certainly Worcester or York); G.39-1, G.577-1, G.358-1, G.905-2, and G.917-1 (all unattributed); S.950-1 (Christ Church); S.313-1 (Winchester Cathedral).
The 'Table of Scribal Hands' then looked like this:
|Hand||Manuscript or Charter||Description|
|G.4-1||Cambridge, University Library, Ff.1.23||Main Hand|
|G.4-2||Cambridge, University Library, Ff.1.23||Hand 2 (5r)|
|G.4-3||Cambridge, University Library, Ff.1.23||Sixteen Glosses (pp. 46, 49, 397, 398, 443, 463, 464, 476, 477)|
This has the advantage of being very concise, but of course it requires the reader to refer constantly to a 'List of Scribal Hands' to understand, and it's also very prone to error. Understandably, readers complained.
Option 2: Brief Labels
What are the alternatives, then? One obvious possibility is to use abbreviated forms of manuscripts. There are numerous standard abbreviations which are generally recognised by scholars. For example, Cambridge University Library is usually abbreviated as 'CUL', and so the manuscript above becomes CUL Ff.1.23. How, then, do we refer to scribal hands? An obvious possibility is 'CUL Ff.1.23 (Hand 1)', with a table explaining exactly which 'Hand 1' is. This seems reasonable, but it rapidly becomes unwieldy with composite manuscripts. Take, for example, G.366: it is British Library, Cotton Tiberius A.xiii, folios 119–200. How do we abbreviate this? Certainly not just 'BL Tib. A.xiii', since this refers to the entire manuscript as it stands at the British Library today, but this was once two separate items which were bound together several centuries after the books were first made. It is crucial to make this distinction between the component parts clear, and indeed scholars have made significant errors in failing to do this. So we are left with 'BL Tib. A.xiii (fols. 119–200)'. This is still manageable, but what of G.54 from the example above? It is Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 178, pages 1–270, plus Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 162, pages 139–60, and so our 'G.54-2' becomes 'CCCC 178 (pp. 1–270) + CCCC 162 (pp 139–60) [Hand 2]'. If we follow this principle, then the footnote given above now becomes
CCCC 178 (pp. 1–270) + 162 (pp. 139–60) [Hand 2], York Add. 1 (fols. 10–161) [Hand 1], York Add. 1 (fols. 10–161) [Hand 2], York Add. 1 (fols. 10–161) [Hand 4], BL Add. Ch. 19797 [Hand 1], BL Add. Ch. 19799 [Hand 1] (all probably or certainly Worcester or York); CCCC 41 [Hand 1], Bodley 441 [Hand 1], Otho C.i (vol. i) [Hand 1], Scheide 71 [Hand 2], and Vatican Reg.lat.946 (fols. 72–76) [Hand 1] (all unattributed); Stowe Ch. 38 [Hand 1] (Christ Church); Edinburgh, UL Laing Charter 18 [Hand 1] (Winchester Cathedral).
A 'List of Hands' is still necessary, of course, but the intention is that the informed reader can make better sense of this than the 'G' and 'S' numbers we had earlier:
|Hand||Manuscript or Charter||Description|
|CUL Ff.1.23 [Hand 1]||Cambridge, University Library, Ff.1.23||Main Hand|
|CUL Ff.1.23 [Hand 2]||Cambridge, University Library, Ff.1.23||Hand 2 (5r)|
|CUL Ff.1.23 [Hand 3]||Cambridge, University Library, Ff.1.23||Sixteen Glosses (pp. 46, 49, 397, 398, 443, 463, 464, 476, 477)|
Option Three: More Descriptive Labels
A third option might be to try to give some indication of which hand is being discussed, so rather than 'Hand 1' instead use 'Main Hand' or 'Third Glossing Hand', and so on. In principle this would be even more meaningful to readers, and at least some might have a fighting chance of recognising precisely which hand is being discussed, perhaps even remembering what the hand and the manuscript context looked like.
CCCC 178 (pp. 1–270) + 162 (pp. 139–60) [Hand 2], York Add. 1 (fols. 10–161) [Hand 1], York Add. 1 (fols. 10–161) [Second Land Survey], York Add. 1 (fols. 10–161) [OE Additions], BL Add. Ch. 19797 [Main Hand], BL Add. Ch. 19799 [Main Hand] (all probably or certainly Worcester or York); CCCC 41 [Hand 1], Bodley 441 [Main Hand], Otho C.i (vol. i) [Main Hand], Scheide 71 [Hand 2], and Vatican Reg.lat.946 (fols. 72–76) [Decree] (all unattributed); Stowe Ch. 38 [Main Hand] (Christ Church); Edinburgh, UL Laing Charter 18 [Main Hand] (Winchester Cathedral).
Are Options Two or Three really any clearer than Option One? Is it still clear in these latter cases which hands are 'probably or certainly Worcester or York', or is this information now lost in the mess? At what point do all the brackets, parentheses and numbers become too much? What about specialists of Anglo-Saxon charters, who routinely refer to these documents by their 'Sawyer number' and are often much less familiar with their shelfmarks? What about other approaches entirely? Are there better ways of doing it? Any suggestions will be very gratefully received.Share on Twitter Share on Facebook