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2. Transitional Phases in the Form and Function of the Book before Gutenberg

2.F. The Carolingian Renewal and the Recopying of Codices in Minuscule

"The secular and ecclesiastical administration of a vast empire called for a large number of trained priests and functionaries. As the only common denominator in a heterogeneous realm and as the repository of both the classical and the Christian heritage of an earlier age, the Church was the obvious means of implementing the educational program necessary to produce a trained executive. But under the Merovingians the Church had fallen on evil days; some of the priests were so ignorant of Latin that Boniface heard one carrying out a baptism of dubious efficacy in nomine patria et filia et spiritus sancti (Epist. 68), and knowledge of antiquity had worn so thin that the author of one sermon was under the unfortunate impression that Venus was a man. Reform had begun under [Charlemagne's father] Pippin the Short; but now the need was greater, and Charlemagne felt a strong personal responsibility to raise the intellectual level of the clergy, and through them of his subjects. . . . (Reynolds & Wilson, Scribes and Scholars 3rd ed [1991] 92-93).

Besides Gutenberg, specific figures who would be called among the most influential in the early history of the book are the Emperor Charlemagne and the director of Charlemagne's education program, the monk Alcuin. It has also been said that a part of Charlemagne's success as a warror and adminstrator are due to his admiration for learning, even though he never truly learned to write and his ability to read has been called into question. 2.E.1. "Charlemagne took a serious interest in scholarship, promoting the liberal arts at the court, ordering that his children and grandchildren be well-educated, and even studying himself (in a time when even leaders who promoted education did not take time to learn themselves) under the tutelage of Paul the Deacon, from whom he learned grammar; Alcuin, with whom he studied rhetoric, dialectic (logic), and astronomy (he was particularly interested in the movements of the stars); and Einhard, who assisted him in his studies of arithmetic. His great scholarly failure, as Einhard relates, was his inability to write: when in his old age he began attempts to learn—practicing the formation of letters in his bed during his free time on books and wax tablets he hid under his pillow—'his effort came too late in life and achieved little success', and his ability to read – which Einhard is silent about, and which no contemporary source supports—has also been called into question" (Wikipedia article on Charlemagne, accessed 01-02-2011). Facing the challenge of raising the standard of education in both his clergy and his government, Charlemagne first attracted a group of scholars to his court, some of whom were expected to educate the emperor, himself. Charlemagne undoubtedly recognized the enormous progress that the church had made in educating the Anglo-Saxons. Since the arrival in England of Augustine of Canterbury in 597, the church had created an educated class out of a population that had deteriorated into virtually complete illiteracy after the departure of the Romans from Brittania in the mid-fifth century. By the eighth century York was the educational center of England, and Alcuin was the head of its school. Appreciating Alcuin's successful experience at York, Charlemagne shrewdly recognized that Alcuin was the most appropriate person to reform education in Germany. He induced Alcuin to move to the royal court as Master of the Palace School at Aachen, where Alcuin remained from 782-796. This school was attended by members of the royal court and the sons of noble families.

At Aachen Alcuin established a great library, for which Charlemagne obtained manuscripts from the Imperial Library of Constantinople, which had been preserved in the stable Byzantine Empire after the decline of Roman institutions. Also at Aachen, Alcuin taught the Carolingian minuscule, which introduced the use of lower case letters, and became the writing standard for the eighth and ninth centuries. Efforts at reforming the crabbed Merovingian and Germanic hands had been attempted without great success before Alcuin arrived at Aachen. The new minuscule was disseminated first from Aachen, and later from the influential scriptorium at Tours, where Alcuin retired as an abbot. With its upper and lower case letters, Carolingian minuscule was not only more legible, but by allowing more characters to be written on a page, was also more economical in its use of the very expensive parchment, and it may also have been written more rapidly than the traditional majuscule by experienced scribes. Though it was eventually superceded by Gothic blackletter hands, Carolingian minuscule later seemed so classical to early Renaissance humanists that they mistook Carolingian manuscripts for ancient Roman originals and based their handwriting styles on the Carolingian model. Those Renaissance hands, in turn, became the models for early Roman typefaces with their upper and lower case letters, the other models for the typefaces being Roman stone inscriptions which were entirely in capital letters.

In addition to reforming handwriting, Alcuin revised the church liturgy and the Bible and, along with another scholar, Theodulf of Orleans, was responsible for an intellectual movement within the Carolingian empire in which many public schools were attached to monasteries and cathedrals. For these schools Alcuin was responsible for writing textbooks, and establishing ta curriculum that included the trivium and quadrivium. Latin was restored as a literary language in a standardized form that allowed for the coining of new words while retaining the grammatical rules of classical Latin. Medieval Latin became a common language of scholarship, and an early international language, allowing the educated to make themselves understood across Europe. Along with these schools there was a flowering of libraries and manuscript book production. During this period of "enlightenment" and relative stability of educational and political institutions scholars sought out and copied in the new legible standardized Carolingian minuscule many Roman texts that had been wholly forgotten. As a result, much of our knowledge of classical literature derives from copies made in the scriptoria of Charlemagne and during the Carolingian Renewal, the exemplars on which the Carolingian copies were based mostly having been discarded after copying, or otherwise lost. Possibly because of the enhanced durability of these parchment copies relative to the earlier exemplars, which may have been papyrus rolls or papyrus codices, but primarily because of the comparative stability of institutions after Charlemagne, even though many of Charlemagne's political achievements and educational reforms did not long endure, roughly 7000 manuscripts written in Carolingian script survive from the 8th and 9th centuries alone. 2.E.2. "The Carolingian programme of renewal was consciously based on Antiquity. Order and stability lay in a vigorous revival of that which was useful and applicable from the Roman past: e.g. its imagery and art forms, such as the human figure as the central theme of art, or its reliance on the written word. Although, culturally, its upward trajectory had peaked by AD 877, this Carolingian renewal had by then insured the survival of ancient art and literature. The text of virtually every ancient Latin author is today edited largely from Carolingian manuscripts. Texts of only a handful of ancient authors—Tibullus, Propertius, Catullus among them—are not reconstructed from manuscripts of the Carolingian renaissance. "The new empire, like the old, was defined by a uniformity in practice. Laws were codified; liturgy was standardized; adminstrative procedures were promulagated in capitularies. Wherever possible, Carolingian government tried to base its actions on an authoritative text. It hunted out the autograph of the Benedictine Rule from Montecassino. It sought the autograph of Gregory's sacramentary from the Lateran Palace. Manuscripts copied from these authoritative examplars each carried an authenticating subscription. Under Theodulf of Orléans (750-821), Jerome's translation of the Bible was reviewed in light of the Greek text" (Rouse, "The Transmission of the Texts," Jenkyns (ed) The Legacy of Rome: A New Appraisal [1992] 46-47). See also Bischoff, Manuscripts and Libraries in the Age of Charlemagne. Translated and edited by Michael Gorman (1994).

Even though the damp European climate was not conducive to the preservation of papyrus, papyrus was used for writing in Europe as late as the 11th century. Among the earliest surviving European papyrus codices is a copy of the writings of Saint Augustine, written in uncial script circa 550 CE, and divided between the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris no. 664 du fonds St-Germain latin or no. 11641) and the Bibliothèque de Genève. Interleaved parchment leaves protect the middle and the outside of the gatherings. These may have contributed to its survival. 2.E.3The codex was described by Henri Bordier in "Restitution d'un manuscrit du sixième siècle mi-parti entre Paris et Genève contenant des lettres et des sermons de Saint Augustin," Etudes paléographiques et historiques sur des papyrus du VIme siecle en partie inedits refermant des homelies de Saint Avit et des ecrits de Saint Augustin (1866) 107-53, with 1 color plate comparing the two separated portions.

"After A.D. 677 the Merovingian chancellery used only parchment, but otherwise papyrus continued in use in France at least till 787. In the ninth century the papal chancellery was still being supplied from Arab Egypt, whence the latest extant papyri bear dates equivalent to A.D. 981, and possibly 1087. A tenth-century gloss refers to the Romans in the present tense as 'customarily writing on papyrus'. An extant papyrus codex of c. A.D. 970 contains an inventory of the land holdings and leases of the Ravenna church, while a papal parchment from Ravenna bears the date of A.D. 967. From Paris come instances of older papyrus reused in the tenth and late eleventh centuries. The latest papyrus document from Spain, a papal bull on papyrus is one of Victor II dated A.D. 1057. But the papal chancellery was still using papyrus some twenty-five years later, and in Sicily and southern Italy books and documents written on papyrus are found through the eleventh and perhaps into the twelfth century. There is also evidence which, if it can be taken at face value, attests that papyrus was still in use at Constantinople as late as c. A.D. 1100. Thereafter the use of papyrus ceases altogether. The Latin word papyrus was retained to designate paper, but the writing material made from the papyrus plant passed completely out of common experience. "It has been suggested that the papal chancelleries toward the end drew their supplies of papyrus from Sicily. This is a possible inference, though not a necessary one, for a flourishing trade in papyrus from Egypt, exporting not only to eastern cities like Baghdad but also westward as far as Spain, is attested in Arab sources at least through the tenth century. The export trade and the manufacture of papyrus received their death blow in the course of the next hundred or so years. The East turned to rag paper, made by a process obtained from the Arabs from China, the West to parchment, which been used increasingly since late antiquity. Eustathius, who wrote in Constantinople in the third quarter of the twelfth century has the final word: 'Papyrus making', he remarks, 'has lately become a lost art' " (Lewis,Papyrus in Classical Antiquity [1974] 92-94).

Approximately coincident with the Carolingian renewal, from around the mid-eighth century, scribes in Greek orthodox monasteries, or in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, began copying old uncial manuscripts, most of which were probably written on papyrus, in Greek minuscule on the more permanent, though more expensive medium of parchment. Besides greater permanence, another advantage of writing on parchment was that the material, as expensive as it was, could be produced locally, thus ensuring a constant supply, while papyrus, which had to be imported from factories in Egypt, was subject to supply interuptions as a result of wars or politics. The Greek minuscule hand, with its capital and lower case letters and much higher character count per page, also enabled a more economical and perhaps more legible use of the expensive writing material. The earliest surviving dated example of a manuscript written in Greek minuscule is the Uspensky Gospels. This codex was probably written in Constantinople by monk named Nicholas. Later it belonged to the monastery of Great Lavra of St. Sabas, known in Arabic as Mar Saba (Hebrew: מנזר מר סבא‎), a Greek Orthodox monastery overlooking the Kidron Valley in the West Bank east of Bethlehem in Palestine. In 1844 bp Porphiryj Uspienski took it along with other manuscripts, including a portion of the Codex Coislinianus, to Russia. The Uspensky Gospels is preserved in the National Library of Russia in Saint Petersburg (Gr. 219. 213. 101).

Throughout the ninth century scholars undertook transcription of the earlier uncial manuscripts into the new Greek minuscule, and nearly all of the earliest surviving Greek texts that have come down to us are from the ninth century or shortly thereafter, written in minuscule. Perhaps because the earlier uncial manuscripts from which these manuscripts were copied were deteriorating by the ninth century, relatively few Greek manuscripts prior to this date have survived. It is also possible that because the earlier manuscripts were written in hands that had become increasingly unfamiliar, and were difficult to read, they were considered obsolete after they were copied, and were discarded. 2.E.4. Reynolds & Wilson, Scribes and Scholars 3rd ed (1991) 59-60. An example is the earliest surviving manuscript of Plato, the so-called "Clarke Plato" preserved in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. From information within the codex we know that the scribe Johannes calligraphus of Constantinople copied the Plato for Arethas of Patrae, later Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia (central Turkey) and owner of the best-known private library of the tenth century. Johannes completed the manuscript volume in November 895. The cost was 21 nomismata, or gold coins, for the copying and the parchment--a very high price, confirming that book collecting was the preserve of the rich at this time. Arethas and other contemporaries added scholia in uncial. The manuscript also contains annotations by many later hands. It is thought that this may be the first volume of a two-volume copy of the whole of Plato, the second volume of which has not been identified, or may be lost. Arethas is thought to have owned a few dozen volumes, of which, remarkably, eight volumes survived, and have been identified. 2.E.5. Wilson, Scholars of Byzantium (1983) 120-135. Sometime between the inventory of 1382 and 1581-1582 the manuscript was purchased by the monastery of St. John on the Island of Patmos. In 1801 E. D. Clarke purchased it from the monastery. (This section was last revised on May 30, 2011.)

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