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Intelligent by Design: The Manuscripts of Walter of Whittlesey, Monk of Peterborough

Julian Luxford (notes)

Abstract

This article examines two important fourteenth-century manuscripts containing historical and other texts from Peterborough Abbey, both made for a monk named Walter of Whittlesey (Add. MS. 37958 and Add. MS. 47170). It reviews the biographical evidence for Whittlesey, the muddied issue of his role in the manuscripts' production, and also the textual and iconographic constitution of these manuscripts. As such, it is essentially a study of the exercise and effects of personal monastic book-patronage. As its objects show, this patronage was heavily inflected by institutional culture, oriented in practical ways towards specific goals, and intelligently implemented. Particular emphasis is placed here on subtleties of design, and how these contributed to the utility of the manuscripts. Although the evidence for Walter's patronage is unusually clear (at least where illuminated manuscripts are concerned), opportunities for similar analysis exist elsewhere, and this study offers a model for how such work might proceed.

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