The development of a medieval scribe

in: Oliver Duntze, Torsten Schaßan, and Georg Vogeler eds., with the assistance of Bernhard Assmann, Johanna Puhl and Patrick Sahle, Kodikologie und Paläographie im digitalen Zeitalter 3 / Codicology and Palaeography in the Digital Age 3. Schriften des Instituts für Dokumentologie und Editorik 10 (Norderstedt: Books on Demand 2010) pp. 67-86.

ISBN: 978-3-7347-9899-3
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Every individual has a set of traits unique for that person. These include biometric identifiers such as DNA, but the same principal applies to the notion of a scribal fingerprint or human stylome. In contrast to the innate nature of a real fingerprint, such features have been acquired over time and, by definition, are therefore subject to change. Knowledge of the (lack of) consistency of such linguistic or palaeographic identifiers over time is essential in constructing unique personal identifiers for scribes.
The present article examines the case of one scribe, working as a secretary for the Teutonic Order in Utrecht and as notary public. His corpus of texts, which includes an important author’s copy of the late fifteenth century Jüngere Hochmeisterchronik, covers a period of thirty years. By quantifying spelling preferences, character sizes, letter-forms and the use of abbreviations it is possible to monitor the development of his writing through time. It turns out that spelling preferences and the use of abbreviations show remarkably little consistency over a longer period. Only changing patterns in the use of certain letter-forms can be used to create a more stable timeline in Hendrik van Vianen’s writings. Furthermore, abrupt changes in the patterns have been used to indicate a phased genesis of the manuscript of the Jüngere Hochmeisterchronik.