Insular Manuscripts

Manuscript data

The project will publish an online listing of all known Insular Manuscripts dating before c. 850.

Prof Simon Keynes' classified list of Anglo-Saxon charters on single sheets includes 87 charters written in England before AD900.

Our preliminary list collated information about more than 500 books written in Ireland, in England, and in the scriptoria of monasteries founded by Irish and English missionaries in Francia and northern Italy. The revised list has added considerably to this number, with about 850 manuscripts in Insular script or showing significant insular interventions. By the mid ninth century, these continental houses had switched to using Caroline minuscule – the script that was developed in the later eighth century and which became ubiquitous throughout Francia during the later years of the reign of Charlemagne (768–814) and his son, Louis the Pious (814–40). This transition can be seen very clearly in this book from Fulda, now Munich, BSB Clm 14641, which was the burial place of the West Saxon missionary, Boniface (d. 754) and which maintained the use of insular scripts longer than most. On folio 31v a scribe using an insular script copied out the epitaph of Charlemagne, filling in a space at the foot of the page, following a copy of some letters attributed to Jerome and Gregory the Great. The scribe of the letters used Caroline minuscule but, as he got towards the end of his long text, he struggled to suppress the insular habits that he had learned long before – for example the letter g shaped like a 5.

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