Prague, Archiv Pražského hradu, MS. O. 83, more commonly known as the Prague Sacramentary, forms the subject of this tightly focused volume, edited by Maximilian Diesenberger, Rob Meens and Els Rose. This manuscript has long been of interest to historians, palaeographers, liturgical scholars and linguists alike; this volume collects together such interdisciplinary perspectives to form a rounded view of this remarkable historical artefact. This microhistorical focus pays clear dividends, evoking not only the context in which the Prague Sacramentary was produced in late eighth-century Bavaria, but also wider trends, for example in the liturgy, early Caroline minuscule and the written forms of Old High German. The Prague Sacramentary is a composite work. The first part of the manuscript consists of a sacramentary and Mass lectionary; the second part, which was produced in the same scriptorium and bound to the first part soon after its composition, includes Theodore of Canterbury’s penitential and Gregory the Great’s Libellus responsionum. Subsequent additions include a list of names (notable for its unique inclusion of Pippin the Hunchback as ‘Pippinus rex’), a sermon (the so-called De creatione mundi) and a number of Old High German glosses. The potential identification of the scribal hand of the sermon with ‘scribe a’ of the sacramentary suggests a tight frame of composition for the different constituent parts in the late eighth century, and at least one portion of the text, the list of names, may be securely dated to the period between September 791 and July 792. Such circumstances of composition, placed alongside various correspondences in form and content, suggest that, while the manuscript is a composite work, it is not, as Rosamond McKitterick notes (p. 16), a miscellany, but rather forms a coherent whole. The volume is divided into three parts, prefaced by a helpful introduction. Part I, on the manuscript and its users, begins with McKitterick on the scribes of the manuscript, with particular attention paid to the variety of scripts, including early Caroline minuscule and a seemingly unique cursive-influenced minuscule, and their ‘imaginative deployment … to differentiate between types of liturgical text’ (p. 28). Elvira Glaser follows with a discussion of the ink and dry-point Old High German glosses, unusual in such a manuscript, which she dates to c.800 and the first decades of the ninth century respectively; such glosses, as she notes, may rank among the first transmitted examples of Old High German. Rounding out Part I, Maximilian Diesenberger analyses a manuscript produced around the same time at the same scriptorium, Munich, Universitätsbibliothek, MS 4o 3. Diesenberger traces the transmission of the texts copied in this manuscript from northern Italy to Bavaria, painting a picture of intensive transalpine contact. Part II explores what the Prague Sacramentary can reveal about contemporary religious culture. Yitzhak Hen undercuts any neat categorisation of the liturgical material as either Old Gelasian, Eighth-Century Gelasian or Gregorian, arguing instead that it ‘should be regarded as parallel, independent liturgical development’ (p. 87) and that the presence of such dynamic local traditions suggests the inherent flexibility of contemporary liturgy. Els Rose then addresses the manuscript’s sanctoral cycle, with particular attention paid to the liturgy of the cults of Zeno, the apostles and Saint Martin, the last of which includes a mass setting adapted from Old Gallican rites. Capping off this section, Richard Corradini explores the influences behind the sermon De creatione mundi, arguing that a preponderance of insular models and some telling mistakes in the text’s copying indicate that ‘the scribe … copied an insular exemplar that he found difficult to decode’ (p. 153). Part III turns outwards to the manuscript’s Bavarian and wider Carolingian context. Rob Meens discusses the ‘Gregorian part’ of the manuscript, comprising the Iudicia Theodori and the Libellus responsionum; as he argues, these texts had clear resonances in their eighth-century Bavarian context, where church reorganisation was under way and where definitions of incest could be weaponised for political gain. Philippe Depreux then analyses the prayers for the king and the state of the realm included in the manuscript, arguing that their inclusion may be related to the programmatic statement put forward in the Capitulary of Herstal in the previous decade. Finally, Stuart Airlie addresses the list of names included in the manuscript with particular attention paid to the entry ‘Pippinus rex’. While examining the complex politics between Charlemagne’s sons and heirs in this contested period, Airlie continues to emphasise the liturgical function of the name-list, arguing against its reduction to ‘an expression of some timeless culture of power politics’ (p. 222). A particularly commendable aspect of this book is its profusion of images, tables and appendices: readers are provided with all the necessary apparatus to retrace the authors’ working methods, whether in the form of images of the original manuscript and its script-types, editions of texts or thematic selections from the manuscript’s liturgical content. The inclusion of such material renders this volume particularly useful for students and scholars of manuscript studies alike, illustrating as it does not only the techniques employed but also their potential dividends. The Prague Sacramentary offers a window onto society, religion and politics in late eighth-century Bavaria; this excellent volume presents its insights to a wide readership, bringing interdisciplinary perspectives to bear on the many facets of this important manuscript. © Oxford University Press 2018. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
The English Historical Review – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 28, 2018
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