Production and Use of English Manuscripts 1060 to 1220


This Project, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, was a collaborative enterprise between the Universities of Leeds and Leicester.

The Project’s objectives were to provide an accurate records of the manuscripts, especially those containing literary materials written principally in English from c. 1060 to 1220. This will constitute a properly formed and exceptionally valuable scholarly resource for use by the Project and all interested researchers.

The analytical work of the Project amounts to a mapping of the production of this material in terms of place, date, scribes and resources, and probable purpose. It situates English textual compilation in its full cultural context, bridging the traditional periodization of ‘Old’ and ‘Middle’ English and bringing to prominence a significant corpus of material whose importance for understanding the impact of the Norman Conquest and its aftermath has never before been investigated.


The project began on May 1, 2005 and finished on August 30, 2010


From the conception of the project to the final delivery, we aimed to identify, analyse and evaluate all manuscripts containing English written in England between 1060 and 1220; to produce an analytical corpus of material from late Anglo-Saxon England, through the Norman Conquest and into the high Middle Ages; to investigate key questions including the status of written English relative to French and Latin; and to raise awareness of agenda informing the production of so many texts in English during this important period.

Pursuing these aims has allowed the project to bring to light a number of important discoveries:

  • Hundreds of texts are written in English between 1060 and 1220 right across England. Their extent varies from the big homilaries to single annotations in manuscripts. A whole range of kinds of writing is done in English: laws, sermons, saints’ lives, land charters, medicinal recipes, prayers;
  • English is written and used with Anglo-Norman and French, showing a picture of continuity and change, a world of linguistic and cultural layers where English, Latin and French, old and new, Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman are interleaved.
  • We have also discovered that many of the categories traditionally used investigating manuscripts and texts are unrealistic and restrictive; for instance the terminology for describing manuscripts and scripts; the way we conceive of the manuscript page – many of the most interesting discoveries we have made have been in the margins of texts, which contradicts the common idea that marginalia is less important than what is in the centre of the page; the ways in which we casually consider scribes, their training and their work without real thought to how the scribes were trained, what scriptoria (institutional manuscript production centres) consisted of, etc..

Project Team


  • Professor Elaine Treharne
  • Dr Mary Swan
  • Dr Orietta Da Rold
  • Professor Jo Story

Research Associate

  • Dr Takako Kato

Senior Research and Administrative Assistant

  • Hollie Morgan

Research and Administrative Assistant

  • Owen Roberson

PhD Students

  • Thomas Gobbitt
  • Kate Wiles

Research Assistants

  • Thomas Gobbitt
  • Johanna Green
  • Sanne van der Schee
  • George Younge

Research Assistants under the Postgraduate Work Experience Scheme

  • Zoë Enstone
  • Rob Payne
  • Simon Patterson

Research Assistants under the GCSEs Work Experience Scheme

  • Molly Hogan, Leicester Grammar School (June 2009)
  • Helena Cooper, Leicester Grammar School (June-July 2010)


  • Dr Danielle Maion
  • Dr Mark Faulkner
  • Dr Helen Foxhall Forbes


Da Rold, Orietta, ‘English Manuscripts 1060 to 1220 and the Making of a Re-source’, Literature Compass, 3 (2006), 750-66 The Production and Use of English Manuscripts 1060 to 1220, edited by Orietta Da Rold, Takako Kato, Mary Swan and Elaine Treharne (University of Leicester 2010), available at 095323195X

Producing and Using English Manuscripts in the Post-Conquest Period, edited by Elaine Treharne, Orietta Da Rold and Mary Swan, New Medieval Literature 13 (2011) (Brepols, forthcoming 2012) ISBN 978-2-503-53653-8.