Robert de Sigillo: an unruly head of the royal scriptorium in the 1120s and 1130s

Karn, Nicholas (2008) Robert de Sigillo: an unruly head of the royal scriptorium in the 1120s and 1130s English Historical Review, 123, (502), pp. 539-553. (doi:10.1093/ehr/cen172).


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The palaeography and diplomatic of Anglo-Norman royal charters and writs have been much studied, but generally as distinct activities, because of the common assumption that the composition of text and the writing of documents were undertaken by different persons. This article is based on the presumption that Anglo-Norman royal palaeography and diplomatic were much more closely linked, indeed that in some cases composition and writing were done by the same person. It argues that a well-known and distinctive hand in the charters of Kings Henry I and Stephen, known as scribe xiii, is that of Robert de Sigillo, keeper of the seal and master of the king’s scriptorium, and that his scribal activity reflects his senior role and consequent responsibility for much of the most sensitive and unusual drafting. The identification is supported by the manner in which other examples of scribe xiii’s handiwork––a forgery for Reading Abbey and an act in the name of Robert de Sigillo, bishop of London––reflect the career of the former keeper of the seal after he had left royal service. The significance of this piece is in its questioning of common assumptions about the business of writing and the operation of the royal chancery, and in the argument that drafting and writing might be done by the same person, even in the case of a bishop.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1093/ehr/cen172
ISSNs: 0013-8266 (print)
ePrint ID: 64117
Date :
Date Event
30 May 2008e-pub ahead of print
June 2008Published
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2008
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2017 17:21
Further Information:Google Scholar

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