eadwine01Scribes from the Middle Ages are mostly anonymous — almost all monks. Bibliographers can often identify the work of individual scribes by stylistic quirks and trace their work from book to book: Scribe 1, Scribe 2 etc. But only one or two are still remembered by name. Eadwine, a 12th century monk, is one of those whose name we do know.

The Eadwine Psalter is in the Trinity College Library in Cambridge. It is 13″ x 18″, written on vellum. The book was probably planned, rather than entirely written out by Eadwine to whose portrait in the back of the book a fulsome comment is appended. You can just make it out in the rectangular box framing the picture. It reads SCRIPTOR (supply loquitur). SRIPTORUM (sic) PRINCEPS EGO NEC OBITURA DEINCEPS LAVS MEA NEC FAMA. QVIS SIM MEA LITTERA CLAMA. LITTERA. TE TVA SRIPTVRA QUEM SIGNAT PICTA FIGURA Ɵ- (top L. again). -Ɵ PREDICAT EADWINVM FAMA PER SECULA VIVUM. INGENIUM CVIVS LIBRI DECUS INDICAT HVIVS. QVEM TIBI SEQUE DATVM MVNVS DEUS ACCIPE GRATVM. Loosely paraphrased this basically says “I am Eadwine and my name shall live for ever”. It is thought that this is not boastfulness, but a tribute paid by another scribe. To the extent that we still remember Eadwine in the 21st century, he’s not wrong!

The book can be examined here at the Trinity College site. If you go to the back of the book you’ll find this illustration on folio 283 verso.

Notice that a scribe would work with two tools (not of course in a bound volume — that’s just artistic license): a quill and a knife. The knife would be used to keep the page flat without marking it with finger prints, but was essential for correcting errors. The ink used was encaustic, burning into the parchment, and if you noticed a mistake you needed to scrape it away with your knife at once, so you could write the correct version in its place. Unfortunately paper does not give us this same flexibility.

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