Scribe C: Rewriting the Beowulf Manuscript - a Seminar with Cheryl Jacobsen


Date and Time 
October 14, 2021
10:00am to 11:30am
General Public
Event Sponsor 
Stanford Text Technologies, Stanford University Libraries

The Nowell Codex has vast significance for literary history as the unique copy of Beowulf but few have looked at it with the experience of a working scribe. What would be learned about the writing of the manuscript if one was to make a new copy looking at the amazing scans of the British library? Modern Scribe Cheryl Jacobsen has had a chance to explore this question when she fulfilled a commission to copy the text of Beowulf in the original language and script with facing translation into a parchment book. Cheryl collaborated with early medieval scholar Jonathan Wilcox on questions about the Old English. The book resulting from the commission holds both the English Vernacular Minuscule reproduced page-by-page and a facing translation in modern English, both written by hand on goat skin. In the many of hours of writing, Cheryl came to understand the sequence of strokes in the letter formation of Scribes A and B in intimate detail along with something of their aesthetic and practical decisions. The many aspects of planning, organizing, and writing a manuscript of over 280 pages all presented opportunities to understand how the scribes may have thought as they did their work.
Cheryl Jacobsen is Adjunct Assistant Professor of lettering at the University of Iowa Center for the Book and the author of “A Modern Scribe Views Scribes of the Past” in Scraped, Stroked, and Bound: Materially Engaged Readings of Medieval Manuscripts (Brepols 2013)