John Osborne

John Osborne

The CSM executive committee is pleased to announce that the 2012 prize for the best student paper delivered at our annual meeting has been awarded to Jenny Weston (University of Leiden), for her paper entitled “Books on the Move: the Exchange of Manuscripts between Monasteries in the Long Twelfth Century”. Congratulations, Jenny!

 

Abstract:

With the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, a new intellectual causeway was established between England and the European continent: books began to move freely through a complex network of lending, borrowing, and copying—organized and facilitated by Benedictine communities on either side of the channel. By the twelfth century, English and Norman libraries began to thrive, including those at Christ Church, Rochester Cathedral, Bec, Fécamp, and St-Évroul. This extensive library network depended on various forms of cooperation and a mutual desire to expand and enhance each community’s knowledge base.

The present paper examines this system of book (and intellectual) exchange between English and Norman Benedictine monasteries in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. It analyzes the various requests to borrow books (and demands to return missing ones), petitions for new copies of the latest texts to be made, as well as the expansion of library collections in both England and Normandy. By following how books were exchanged and shared across the channel, we can better understand how certain trends in learning, reading, and writing developed and spread between these two adjacent cultures. Were both English and Norman monks interested in the same texts? Did they pursue similar intellectual goals or did each community nurture special interest in certain types of books and certain kinds of learning? Although English and Norman monastic communities may have been brought together through conquest, this paper demonstrates that it was their shared passion for learning and their willingness to be part of an intellectual partnership of book exchange that ultimately united them.