ENGLISH ILLUMINATION FROM THE TENTH TO THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY

Organisation of the Monastic scriptoria—Professional outsiders: lay artists—The whole sometimes the work of the same practitioner—The Winchester Abbeys of St. Swithun's and Hyde—Their vicissitudes—St. Alban's—Westminster—Royal MS. 2 A. 22—Description of style—The Tenison Psalter—Features of this period—The Arundel Psalter—Hunting and shooting scenes, and games—Characteristic pictures, grotesques, and caricatures—Queen Mary's Psalter—Rapid changes under Richard II.—Royal MS. 1 E. 9—Their cause.

In a former chapter we left our native schools of illumination at work on such MSS. as the Devonshire and Rouen Benedictionals, and with the reputation of being the best schools of the kind in Christendom. Mention also is made elsewhere in dealing with monastic art of the usages of the scriptoria. Such usages, of course, could only obtain in houses where scribes themselves were to be had. Hence we should discover, were it not otherwise known, that writing and illumination, even in the monastic age, were not confined absolutely to the cloister.

With respect to the secular scribes, who sometimes worked in the monastery, sometimes at their own homes, in those days when the monastic orders still did most of the book-production, there were three classes of specialists. These were the Librarii or ordinary copyists; the Notarii or law-scribes, whose business lay in copying deeds, charters, and such-like instruments, and taking notes in the courts; andPaginators or Illuminatores. It sometimes happened, as we have said, that in some monastery or other, no monastic was found qualified to undertake any of these duties. It then fell to the prior or abbat to seek the assistance of professional outsiders. The paging and rubrication, putting in initials in the spaces left by the common scribe, and, if needed, the addition of pictures or marginal drawings and ornaments, caricatures, heraldic illustrations, etc., were the proper work of the illuminator, but it often happened that the same man had to do the whole work from the commencement to the finish. The Chronicon Trudonense tells us: “Graduale unum propria manu formavit, purgavit, pinxit, sulcabit, scripsit, illuminavit, musiceque notavit syllabatim.” Several of our old English chronicles, of which the MSS. exist in the British Museum and elsewhere, seem to be of this description.

Reference has been made to the scriptoria at Winchester, i.e. at St. Swithun's and the New Minster. It is the latter foundation which is usually referred to in speaking of Winchester work. The Monastery of the Holy Trinity or the New Minster was founded in the first year of his reign by King Edward, son of Alfred, no doubt in obedience to his father's wish, if not absolutely in the terms of his will. Its first charter is dated 900 (for 901) and the second in 903. In the latter document the abbey is spoken of as dedicated to the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to St. Peter, and is amply endowed under the Augustinian Rule. In 965, not without trouble and resistance, it was converted into a Benedictine abbey. In 968 Ethelgar, who had been trained at Glastonbury and Abingdon, became abbat, and from this time the New Minster became famous for both discipline and the production of MSS. As we walk along the High Street of Winchester now we find the story in moss-grown stones or other memorials how, among other methods, William the Norman punished the monks for their English warlike proclivities by walling them up nearly close to their church with the walls of his royal palace. In the old time, when the two monasteries stood side by side—St. Swithun's is close behind the New Minster—“so closely packed together,” says the old chronicler,[37] “were the two communities of St. Swithun and St. Peter that between the foundation of their respective buildings there was barely room for a man to pass along. The choral service of one monastery conflicted with that of the other, so that both were spoiled, and the ringing of their bells together produced a horrid discord.” The result of this was, first the above-mentioned hemming in of the younger establishment and eventually its migration to another site in Hyde Meadow. Here while the monastic buildings suffered much through fires and other disasters, the Rule remained until 1538, when it was surrendered into the King's hands, and the abbat, prior, and nineteen monks, the last survivors of this once-famous foundation, were pensioned.