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

Robert de Sigillo: an unruly head of the royal scriptorium in the 1120s and 1130s
Robert de Sigillo: an unruly head of the royal scriptorium in the 1120s and 1130s
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.
0013-8266
539-553
Karn, Nicholas
e5a315e3-36a2-4c0d-b535-3c8bead463da
Karn, Nicholas
e5a315e3-36a2-4c0d-b535-3c8bead463da

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

Record type: Article

Abstract

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.

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e-pub ahead of print date: 30 May 2008
Published date: June 2008
Organisations: History

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 64117
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/64117
ISSN: 0013-8266
PURE UUID: dcc69ad9-9465-4d93-97b6-bb523e753554

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Date deposited: 01 Dec 2008
Last modified: 13 Mar 2019 20:22

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Author: Nicholas Karn

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