Day Two of Library Thrills

Our second winner of the National Library Week contest (and there is no rank among the winners, by the way, no first prize or runners-up) is by “EMB”.  And how could it not be, coupling precision with the words “Bodleian” and “mitigation” in its very first sentence–then going on to a mystery involving the Tremulous Hand of Worcester, and a quick exuberant lap around Duke Humfrey’s?  Read on…


One of my greatest library thrills was not in the stacks, though perhaps the fact that the Bodleian has closed stacks is something of a mitigation on that score. Although I’d not only studied palaeography, but also run weekly tutorials for fellow grad students enrolled in the relevant courses, this was my first major research trip, and I was fairly certain that I was broadcasting to all of the other readers in Duke Humfrey’s Library that I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. So, there was an added charge when I finally began to successfully decipher the interlinear notations in the manuscript I was transcribing, an eleventh-century copy of a number of Old English homilies and other religious texts. I needed not only the Old English text, but the thirteenth-century annotations by the gloriously named Tremulous Hand of Worcester and the sixteenth-century notes entered by John Joscelyn, a secretary to Matthew Parker, who was then the Archbishop of Canterbury. Learning to read a new hand is a little bit like shifting into a new gear, and once you’ve done it, everything runs smoothly until the next time you need to shift, but the trick is finding that one word that will fall into place. Sixteenth-century hands, ironically, are often more difficult to read than medieval hands, and I had spent several minutes pushing aside panic before I realized that Joscelyn had merely translated the OE word hiht with a very small hope. As simple as that. I managed to contain my exuberance enough to limit myself to a single, quick circuit along the aisle before sitting back down to the manuscript, but I’ve never forgotten that moment of relief and delight.


  1. Meredith says:

    O my lordamercy. am I allowed to be madly in love with this person? *muttering* not meaning any offense to signficiant others or anything, you-know-what-I-mean. Laurie, your readers are IT.

  2. Wow, maybe I should have advertised my identity more openly! Just stopped by to say that I spread PK over several days (giving at least the pretense of attending to my professional life), but I loved it. Many thanks for the nod!

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