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In Memoriam: T. A. M. Bishop (1907-1994)


A Remembrance by David Ganz, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Alan Bishop, who died 29 March 1994, was born in 1907 at Pebsham on the Sussex coast and educated at Christ's Hospital and at Keble College, Oxford, where he had an exhibition to read Classics. After taking the Honour Mods. examination he changed to History, taking a class in Diplomatic with V.H. Galbraith. During the Second World War he served in the Royal Artillery in Africa and rose to the rank of Captain. In 1946 he was appointed lecturer in Medieval History at Balliol College, Oxford. and in the following year elected to the newly created Readership in Palaeography and Diplomatic at Cambridge from which he retired in 1975. In 1971 he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy.

As Reader, drawing on unpublished work by H.E. Salter, he published (with Pierre Chaplais) a study of original English Royal Writs to 1100, including vernacular documents, and followed this with a detailed study of the organization and activity of the twelfth-century English royal chancery. This work revealed his remarkable gift for recognizing individual hands. His "full dress theory" was unfortunately never published because his editors imposed limits on Scriptoris Regis (1961), but in 1955 he wrote to Richard Hunt, "I should not venture to identify – or distinguish – the hand of any individual without making a sustained attempt to imitate some specimen of it."

As a palaeographer, Bishop learned much from the methods of Neil Ker. He made himself master of the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth century holdings in Cambridge libraries, and pursued their scribes in other collections in order to localize scripts. He would distinguish several hands on what might seem a uniform page, and identify the scribe who intervened for a few lines as the main scribe of another manuscript. These identifications enabled him to group the manuscripts from particular centers, notably St. Augustine's and Christ Church, and led to an exploration of Latin script in England from 900 to the Conquest, concentrating on the introduction of a new script, English Caroline Minuscule. In reviewing his tantalizingly laconic monograph, the first treatment of the rise and fall of an English script, Julian Brown wrote, "every sentence has to be read with close attention; but the careful reader will find himself not merely informed but stimulated, as if by a touch of frost on the morning air." Bishop characterized the procedure in a 1958 letter to Ker, "to detail the apparently distinctive features for the reader could be a discipline encouraging him to take in more or less unconsciously the more essential and ineffable characteristics."

His interest in the continental models of English Caroline minuscule, led to the Lyell lectures in Oxford (1975) on the Carolingian scripts of Corbie. Rich in methodological aphorisms and lavishly illustrated, these were the crown of his career and included explorations of the autographs of John the Scot and Paschasius Radbertus. In work on the Periphyseon, the Liber Glossarum, and the Hexaemeron, he gave exemplary accounts of what the copying of an exemplar might entail. Much of this work has remained unpublished.

In all his publications Bishop remained true to his heroes, Gibbon, Maitland, and Lindsay. He insisted on style, quoting Buffon to explain how it expressed personality and resisting editors, who suggested modifications: "I like a form which lets me isolate original contribution with the bare minimum of references to the learning accumulating around every important manuscript." Despite shyness and increasing deafness he was a meticulous teacher, regularly giving classes in Latin and vernacular palaeography and diplomatics, concerned to develop a vocabulary and a method for the analysis of scripts and hands, and always determined to establish the context and the implications of his discoveries about manuscript production.

Alan Bishop was proud to appear in a children's book, "An Enemy at Greene Knowe," written by his landlady Lucy Boston, which described him reading a manuscript. "He opened the book, which he caressed as if soothing something alive, with reverent and careful handling ... and his face grew brilliantly happy as if he were drinking champagne." Those who knew him will mourn the reverence of his expertise, and the brilliance of his happiness in understanding.


Bibliography of the Publications of T. A. M. Bishop

Compiled by David Ganz, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

"List of the Publications of H.E. Salter." Oxford Essays in Medieval History presented to Herbert E. Salter. Oxford, 1934. 242-51. d

"Monastic Demesnes and the Statute of Mortmain." English Historical Review 49 (1934), 303-06.

"The Distribution of Manorial Demesne in the vale of Yorkshire." English Historical Review 49 (1934), 386-406.

"The Extent of Barton in Richmondshire, 1309." Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 32 (1934), 86-97.

"Assarting and the Growth of the Open Fields." Economic History Review 6 (1935-36), 13-29.

"Monastic Granges in Yorkshire." English Historical Review 51 (1936), 193-214.

"Extents of the Prebends of York (c. 1295)." Ed. T.A.M. Bishop. Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 94, Miscellanea 4 (1937), 1-38.

"The Extent of Monk Friston, 1320." Ed. T.A.M. Bishop. Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 94 (1937), 39-72.

"The Rotation of Crops at Westerham, (Kent) 1297-1350." Economic History Review 9 (1938-39), 38-44.

"The Norman settlement of Yorkshire." Studies in Medieval History presented to Sir Maurice Powicke. Ed. R.W. Hunt, W.A. Pantin, and R.W. Southern. Oxford, 1948. 1-14.

"A Chancery Scribe: Stephen of Fougières." Cambridge Historical Journal 10 (1950), 106-07.

"Notes on Cambridge Manuscripts Part I." Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 1 (1949-53), 432-41.

"Germanus Scriptor and Nicholas de Sigilo." Bodleian Library Record 3 (1950-51), 185-93.

"Two Charters of Stephen at Jesus College." Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society 45 (1951), 1-4.

"A Cistercian Customs Exemption." Lincolnshire Architectural and Archaeological Society Reports and Papers 4, part 2 (1952), 101-08.

"A Fragment of Northumbrian Uncial." Scriptorium 8 (1954), 111-13.

"Notes on Cambridge Manuscripts Part II." Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 2 (1954-58), 185-92.

"Notes on Cambridge Manuscripts Part III, MSS. Connected with Exeter." Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 2 (1954-58), 192-99.

"Notes on Cambridge Manuscripts Part IV, MSS. Connected with St. Augustine's Canterbury." Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 2 (1954-58), 323-36.

"The Manuscript O of Persius." The Classical Review 69 (1955), 145.

"Canterbury Scribe's Work." The Durham Philobiblion 2.1 (1955), 1-3.

"A Charter of King Edwy." Bodleian Library Record 6 (1957), 369-73.

Facsimiles of English Royal Writs to A.D. 1100 presented to Vivian Hunter Galbraith. With Pierre Chaplais. Oxford, 1957.

"Notes on Cambridge Manuscripts Part V, MSS. Connected with St. Augustine's Canterbury continued." Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 3 (1959-63), 93-95.

"Notes on Cambridge Manuscripts Part VI, MSS. Connected with St. Augustine's Canterbury continued." Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 3 (1959-63), 412-13.

Scriptores Regis: Facsimiles to identify and illustrate the hands of royal scribes in the original charters of Henry I, Stephen and Henry II. Oxford, 1961.

"Notes on Cambridge Manuscripts Part VII, The Early Minuscule of Christ Church, Canterbury." Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 3 (1959-63), 413-23.

"Notes on Cambridge Manuscripts Part VIII, Pelagius in Trinity College B.10.5." Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 4 (1964-68), 70-77.

"An early example of the square minuscule." Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 4 (1964-68), 246-52.

"The Corpus of Martianus Capella." Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 4 (1964-68), 257-75.

"An early example of Insular caroline." Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 4 (1964-68), 396-400.

Aethici Istrici Cosmographia Codex Leidensis Scaligerianus 69. Umbrae Codicum Occidentalium 10 (1966).

"The Copenhagen Gospel Book." Nordisk Tidskrift for Bok- och Biblioteksvasen (1967), 33-41.

"Lincoln Cathedral Manuscript 182." Lincolnshire History and Archaeology 2 (1967), 73-76.

"Appendix to R.H. Rodgers The Moore Palladius." Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 5 (1969-71), 215-16.

English Caroline Minuscule. Oxford, 1971.

"Periphyseon: An Episode in the tradition," Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 7 (1977-80), 411-26.

"Periphyseon: The Descent of the Uncompleted Copy." Ireland in the Early Medieval Europe. Ed D. Whitelock, R. McKitterick, D. Dumville. Cambridge, 1982. 281-304.

"The Script of Corbie, A Criterion." Varia Codicologia Litterae Textuales. Essays presented to G.I. Lieftinck. Amsterdam 1972. I.9-16.

"Autographa of John the Scot." Jean Scot Erigène et l'histoire de la philosophie. Codiques internationaux du centre nationale de la recherche scientifique 56l. Paris, 1977. 4.

"The Prototype of Liber Glossarum." Medieval Scribes, Manuscripts and Libraries. Essays presented to N.R. Ker. Ed. M.B. Parkes and A.I. Doyle. London, 1978. 69-86.

"The Scribes of the Corbie ab." Charlemagne's Heir. New Perspecitives on the Reign of Louis the Pious. Ed. R. Collins and P. Godman. Oxford, 1990. 523-36.

OEN 27.3 (1994): 16.