Reading across the manuscripts: the process of cartularisation at Arbroath Abbey

Stevenson, Hilary (2023) Reading across the manuscripts: the process of cartularisation at Arbroath Abbey. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines how ‘cartularisation’ was practiced at the Tironensian abbey of Arbroath over three centuries from c.1250–c.1560. While previous studies have generally focused on single cartularies, this study looks at it from an institutional perspective, by examining the corpus of cartularies surviving from the medieval abbey, focusing on those that related to the community rather than an individual abbot or commendator.

In particular, the thesis examines cartularisation in light of the recent work of Joanna Tucker, whose study of two Scottish cartularies (each drawn from a separate institution) demonstrated that it was a community activity in its own right, rather than just the means by which manuscripts were created. This thesis builds upon her findings to better understand how successive generations of scribes engaged with the wider corpus of manuscripts than just the one to which they were contributing.

To do so, it is first necessary to fully examine each of the four cartularies chosen for this study and an in-depth analysis of each one can be found in Chapters 1 to 4. Using Tucker’s newly established methodology for examining multi-scribe cartularies, the evolution of each cartulary is examined to provide a comprehensive understanding of how the character of each one was shaped by the choices made by contributing scribes. Once the nature of each individual cartulary has been uncovered, the evidence these analyses provide is brought together to demonstrate how scribes worked over the longer period.

Chapter 5 charts the timeline of document copying at Arbroath and compares the various ‘campaigns’ involved in creating each cartulary. Chapter 6 shows that where repeated texts occur (either within a single volume or across the corpus) they were the rarely the result of scribal error, but that scribes had a working knowledge of what had previously been copied. The evidence for scribes as readers of all the abbey’s manuscripts is extended in Chapter 7, which examines the cross-references found within all of the extant cartularies of Arbroath that indicate the cartularies were seen as a corpus in their own right, and not just a substitute for the abbey’s archive.

Through these different analyses it becomes possible to see copying as more than just a method to create single manuscript volumes but as an intergenerational communal activity. Scribes are shown to be deeply aware of what had been copied by their predecessors, a knowledge which influenced their own choices. As time progresses, however, it is also possible to see scribes copying documents that relate to contemporary concerns and interests. By reading across the manuscripts and tracking the patterns of copying over three centuries it becomes possible to see cartularisation at Arbroath not as a series of single projects to create individual bound volumes, but as an ongoing intergenerational conversation which echoed across three centuries.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z004 Books. Writing. Paleography
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Funder's Name: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Supervisor's Name: Tucker, Dr. Joanna and Broun, Professor Dauvit
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83667
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2023 13:41
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2023 14:02
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83667

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