Studies in pre-Reformation Carthusian vernacular manuscripts: the cases of Dom William Mede and Dom Stephen Dodesham of Sheen

McClelland, Lauren S. (2013) Studies in pre-Reformation Carthusian vernacular manuscripts: the cases of Dom William Mede and Dom Stephen Dodesham of Sheen. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In the field of manuscript studies, the identification of individual scribes and the reconstruction of their lives and work through examination of manuscript material has recently undergone revival. This thesis contributes to that field by presenting two biobibliographical case-studies of two fifteenth-century scribes and Carthusian monks, William Mede and Stephen Dodesham of Sheen. It sets out to demonstrate the value of an integrated biographical and comparative approach in the examination of the making and circumstances of making of manuscript books. This is demonstrated by building scribal biographies based on the integration of evidence from documentary record and the analysis of the material manuscript output of Mede and Dodesham. Dodesham, as the more prolific of the two, has been more fully investigated in recent scholarship. New documentary evidence, however, has necessitated a fresh appraisal of his life and the contexts of his copying, contexts which I argue are strongly educational. I show that Mede’s life and work as a Carthusian reader, copyist, and perhaps writer, is therefore worth further scholarly investigation.

Chapter one considers the current state of the field of historical biography and, more specifically, scribal biography. It assesses the usefulness of integrating biographical and codicological approaches in the study of manuscripts and provides a definition of codicology in its broader sense (as a means of writing biobibliographical histories). As not all aspects of codicology are considered here, I also identify those aspects of codicological enquiry I have chosen to apply to the manuscripts of Mede and Dodesham. The case is made for the usefulness of codicological methods as a means of interpreting historical material.

As the main focal points of this study are the lives and work of two Carthusian scribes, chapter two provides context on the Carthusian life, incorporating an evaluation of recent work on Carthusian textual culture, a brief summary of the Order’s history, its administrative structure, Carthusian spirituality, its participation in the intellectual culture of the late medieval period, how it responded to changing patterns in devotion, and its members’ attitudes and approaches to the acts of reading, writing and copying. This background is essential in contextualising the scribal activity of Mede and Dodesham and will be referred to in the following chapters.

Chapters three and four are dedicated to the case studies examining the lives and work of William Mede and Stephen Dodesham of Sheen. Chapter three, containing the case study of William Mede, includes analysis of his Anglicana and other idiosyncratic features of his hand; full descriptions of each of the six manuscripts so far attributed to him; and study of his language and punctuation practices, which vary, I argue, depending upon for what sorts of audience Mede is writing or copying. A detailed study of the Speculum devotorum demonstrates this adaptive scribal behaviour in action and also investigates the possibility that Mede may have been the author of the text. The above are all discussed in relation to the making and circumstances of making of Mede’s manuscripts. The conclusion to the chapter offers a summary of Mede’s life and work and makes the case for the importance of further investigation of this Carthusian scribe.

Chapter four, the case study of Stephen Dodesham, includes a reappraisal in light of new evidence of his early scribal career, including his ordination at Sheen charterhouse, potential connections with the prominent Dodesham family of Somerset and connections with middle-class, professional families in London and around the south-western counties of England. This new evidence has made it possible to more firmly place the contexts of Dodesham’s manuscript copying. Much of chapter four is dedicated to analysing his language, and providing brief descriptions of those manuscripts so far attributed to him; the above all discussed in relation to the making and circumstances of making of Dodesham’s manuscripts. The conclusion offers a summary of Dodesham’s life and work and makes the case for the importance of further investigation as of particular interest in the areas of developing literacy and education.

In chapter five, I bring both case studies together, assess the usefulness of the biographical approach in the context of this particular study, and evaluate its successes and limitations as a framework for combined biographical and codicological investigation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available.
Keywords: Carthusians, Dodesham, Mede, book history, manuscript studies
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z004 Books. Writing. Paleography
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Supervisor's Name: Smith, Professor Jeremy J.
Date of Award: 2013
Depositing User: Dr Lauren S. McClelland
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-5256
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2014 13:08
Last Modified: 30 Jul 2021 13:59

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