The collapse of the Carolingian dynasty in Western Europe had a profound impact similar to that of the collapse of the Roman Empire. Asides from the basic return to regional rulers having total authority over their wards, there was also the return to regionalized culture across Christendom. Monasteries returned to maintaining their own version of the Benedictine charter, book production and copying returned to previous methods with little organization between distant monasteries, unlike what was seen during the time of the Carolingians. This return to localization, not just within the governments and organization of monastic life, but with scripts, is a very visible reflection of the collapse of one of the greatest land empires Europe had seen since the Romans.Within the Rievaulx Orosius are several of the prime markers of the re-localisation of book manufacturing, as the previously accepted methods of Caroline script and hierarchy within books is ignored. Instead of Anglo-Caroline minuscule, we see a return to more traditionally Anglo text styles in the form of Anglo square capitals and even the beginnings of Anglo Protogothic script. Note the sharpness of the corners on the words and the distinctive flatness of the sides. This contrasts sharply with the relatively fluid movements required by the previously dominant scripts on the British Isles, Insular and Anglo-Caroline. Though perhaps not the best term to use, but this form of script contains a tremendous amount of "minim-ization," as nearly every letter is made up of minims in one way or another.
|Note the preference of pattern|
similar to peacock
feathers over Celtic knots or
within the stem of the P.
|This A in particular strikes me |
as very typical of Capetian design,
look at thelong trailing flourish and how
fluid it seems to melt across the page.
Looking withinyou can clearly see
several flower buds
and surrounding leaves.
|More examples of proto-gothic|
script and strange styling in
initials for the English
monks to be writing with.
There is also the question of illustrations and images within the manuscript, more specifically the elaborately detailed initials present in the text. They bear dozens of patterns that are fairly atypical to Insular manuscripts and those of the continent. Up into the 10th century Celtic knots were still quite common within initials and were used in a variety of genres of text. So why was there a shift away from traditional iconography? More likely than anything else, it was perhaps mostly just due to changes in tastes as time went on. Knots went out of style and the rise of the Capetians in Francia (ah, those French, always the trend setters) led to increasing usage of blues as well as designs and symbols we typically associate as being very "French," such as the fleur de lis, peacock featherings, and the twisting, vine-like, detailing typical of French engraving and architecture. It's also important to note that there is significantly more rubrication in the main body of the script than in in many of the other manuscripts we've looked at this semester. It seems that rubrication has overtaken marginal notes in popularity to make certain points more noticeable than others.
|Interesting to note: the|
rubrication appears to be similar
to the main body of text, perhaps
the same scribe did them both?
Then of course there is the return to writing about local affairs rather than the copying of universally applicable philosophical and religious texts. The Rievaulx Orosius is a narrative and a chronicle, the only one of its kind it seems, that covers English history in depth from the 2nd century all the way though to the 12th. However, this is only one book within the manuscript, prior to that is an account of the Trojan War by by a priest of Troy known as Dare, however this is probably fictionalized as the writer appears to be late Roman. Neither of these two things would be considered useful to any monastery outside of England. In the centuries prior to the writing of this piece, this would have been exceedingly rare and written in shorthand and with very little care to legibility or illustrations (such as the Moore Bede with it's line after line of historical regurgitation). This piece is less interested in the retelling of events, but rather it is interested in the spread and dispersion of a specific form of knowledge. The Rievaulx Orosius is a local history book used for spreading knowledge between neighboring monasteries. This makes it unique to those that came before it. Before manuscripts traveled entire continents to be copied and shared so that everyone could have the same basic knowledge, but this manuscript is meant to be shared locally, and locally alone.