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In Memoriam: Julian Brown (1923-87)


A Remembrance by Janet Bately and Jane Roberts

Julian Brown, born near Penrith on 24 February 1923, first came to London as a King's Scholar of Westminster School. He went up to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1941, where he took Classical Honours Mods in 1942 before the interruption of his undergraduate work by wartime service with The Border Regiment. In 1948 he graduated in Lit. Hum., and in 1950 he was appointed an Assistant Keeper in the Department of Manuscripts in the British Museum, where he was to remain until his appointment, as successor to Francis Wormald, to the Chair of Palaeography in 1961. He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1975 and a Fellow of the British Academy in 1982. Despite taking early retirement in 1984 in order to spend more time on his own research, he continued to teach for King's, helping and encouraging all who took their queries and problems to him. Not least, as a member of the Comité International de Palaéographie Latine, he organized the highly successful Colloque held in London in 1985. In 1986 he was awarded a D.Litt. honoris causae by the University of Durham. He died on 19 January 1987 and his memorial service was held in the College Chapel on 17 March.

The distinction of Julian Brown's scholarship was evident with the publication of the volume of commentary for the magnificent facsimile of the Lindisfarne Gospels (1960). There followed other studies of Northumbrian books, of the Stonyhurst Gospel and the Durham Ritual (both in 1969) and of the Durham Gospels (1980). In these, as in many other publications, he made valuable contributions to our understanding of the written legacy of medieval Europe and of its inheritance from the classical world. His clear-sighted interpretation of the evidence to be found in manuscripts, not narrowly palaeographical but using and developing techniques of codicological description, has much to offer colleagues in many disciplines, and he was sought out and consulted by classicists, historians, musicologists, theologians and those of us working in the vernacular languages.

Throughout his years in King's Julian Brown played a full rôle in the college's life, serving on a range of committees and on the college Council. For six years he was a most dedicated, efficient and influential chairman of the Library Committee. He took an active role in many committee meetings and his authority was greatly respected in many associations, most recently in the earliest deliberations of the Council of the Fontes Anglo-Saxonici.

To all who knew Julian Brown, there will remain a sense of the loss of the most intelligent and faithful of friends. He was no dry-as-dust scholar, but a man filled with wit, good sense, poetry and humor. The college's loss is great. We must not forget to extend our sympathy to his widow, Sanchia, who has cared for and nursed him so devotedly during the last few years, and to his daughters Charlotte and Rachel.

OEN 20.2 (1987): 14.