Revealing Words follows my research trails exploring the community of St. Cuthbert at Chester-le-Street, Northumbria, in the second half of the tenth century. My starting point is the manuscript Durham Cathedral Library A.IV.19 and the additions made by Aldred and a group of scribes at Chester-le-Street circa 970.
Aldred also glossed the Lindisfarne Gospels and added this poem as part of his colophon at the end of the manuscript:
letter me reveal of speech faithful servant
† Littera me pandat sermonis fida ministra.
all O kind one my brothers with voice greet
Omnes alme meos fratres voce salvta.
Translated loosely: May the letter, faithful servant of speech, reveal me. Salute all my brothers with your kindly voice.
From that little poem comes the name of this blog, “Revealing Words,” located at litteramepandat.
Now that my scholarly book on The Community of St. Cuthbert in the Late Tenth Century: The Chester-le-Street Additions to Durham Cathedral Library A.IV.19 is out, I am turning the research in it toward two projects, one a collaborative database site for liturgical materials, the other a piece of historical fiction, hence this blog.
In order to understand some of the prayers added to Durham A.IV.19 and the work of the eclectic group of scribes with Aldred at Chester-le-Street, I began to imagine them as they wrote and interacted with the texts and with each other. I started copying their work with quill on parchment. Then I began to zoom in with GoogleEarth on various locations. Stone carvings and bits of Old English literature began to flow into my thinking.
The novel, if that is what it turns out to be, is thus starting with an odd foundation of irregular building blocks. I take a text–Scribe B’s shaky copy of the John poison prayer with Aldred’s corrections, Aldred’s five field prayers, or the colophons–and create a scriptorium scene that helps me get into the characters’ heads. From that, I begin constructing memories and histories for them. No plot yet.
The blog categories will be different texts and scenes for exploring the landscape and the characters. I appreciate any comments, corrections, or links that readers provide.