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Women as Scribes
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  • Page extent: 214 pages
  • Size: 247 x 174 mm
  • Weight: 0.54 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 745.6/1
  • Dewey version: 21
  • LC Classification: Z801.B3 B43 2004
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Scriptoria--Germany--Bavaria--History--To 1500
    • Scribes--Germany--Bavaria--History--To 1500
    • Women in Christianity--History--Middle Ages, 600-1500
    • Books--Germany--History--400-1400
    • Manuscripts, Medieval--Germany--Bavaria--History

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521792431 | ISBN-10: 0521792436)


Book Production and Monastic Reform in Twelfth-Century Bavaria

Professor Beach’s book on female scribes in twelfth-century Bavaria – the first full-length study of the role of women copyists in the Middle Ages – is underpinned by the notion that the scriptorium was central to the intellectual revival of the Middle Ages and that women played a role in this renaissance. The author examines the exceptional quantity of evidence of female scribal activity in three different religious communities, pointing out the various ways in which the women worked – alone, with other women, and even alongside men – to produce books for monastic libraries, and discussing why their work should have been made visible, whereas that of other female scribes remains invisible. Beach’s focus on manuscript production, and the religious, intellectual, social, and economic factors which shaped that production, enables her to draw wide-ranging conclusions of interest not only to paleographers but also to those interested in reading, literacy, religious and gender history.

ALISON I. BEACH is Assistant Professor of Religion, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia.

Cambridge Studies in Palaeography and Codicology

Albinia de la Mare
Rosamond McKitterick Newnham College, University of Cambridge

David Ganz King’s College, London
Teresa Webber Trinity College, University of Cambridge

This series has been established to further the study of manuscripts from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It includes books devoted to particular types of manuscripts, their production and circulation, to individual codices of outstanding importance, and to regions, periods, and scripts of especial interest to scholars. The series will be of interest not only to scholars and students of medieval literature and history, but also to theologians, art historians, and others working with manuscript sources.

Bernhard Bischoff, translated by Michael Gorman    Manuscripts and Libraries in the Age of Charlemagne
Richard Gameson    The Early Medieval Bible: Its Production, Decoration and Use
Nancy Netzer    Cultural Interplay in the Eighth Century: The Trier Gospels and the Making of a Scriptorium at Echternach
William Noel    The Harley Psalter
Charles F. Briggs    Giles of Rome’s De regimine principum: Reading and Writing Politics at Court and University, c. 1275–c. 1525
Leslie Brubaker    Vision and Meaning in Ninth-Century Byzantium: Image as Exegesis in the Homilies of Gregory of Nazianzus
Francis Newton    The Scriptorium and Library at Monte Cassino, 1058–1105
Lisa Fagin Davis    The Gottschalk Antiphonary: Music and Liturgy in Twelfth-Century Lambach
Albert Derolez    The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books: From the Twelfth to the Early Sixteenth Century


Book Production and Monastic Reform in Twelfth-Century Bavaria


The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, United Kingdom

The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge, CB2 2RU, UK
40 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011–4211, USA
477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, VIC 3207, Australia
Ruiz de Alarcón 13, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Dock House, The Waterfront, Cape Town 8001, South Africa

© Alison I. Beach 2004

This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2004

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

Typeface Adobe Garamond 11.5/13.5 pt.    System LATEX 2e    [TB]

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data
Beach, Alison I.
Women as scribes: book production and monastic reform in twelfth-century Bavaria / Alison I. Beach.
p.    cm. – (Cambridge studies in palaeography and codicology; 10)
Originally presented as author’s thesis (doctoral) – Columbia University
Includes bibliographical references (p. 173) and index.
ISBN 0 521 79243 6
1. Scriptoria – Germany – Bavaria – History – To 1500.   2. Scribes – Germany – Bavaria – History – To 1500.   3. Women in Christianity – History – Middle Ages, 600–1500.   4. Books – Germany – History – 400–1400.   5. Manuscripts, Medieval – Germany – Bavaria – History.   6. Monasticism and religious orders – Germany – Bavaria – History – To 1500.   7. Wessobrunn (Monastery) – History – To 1500.   8. Stift Admont – History – To 1500.   9. Schèftlarn (Monastery: Schèftlarn, Germany) – History – To 1500.   10. Civilization, Medieval – 12th century.   I. Title.   II. Series.
Z801.B3B43    2003
745.6′1 – dc21    2003048559

ISBN 0 521 79243 6 hardback

For David


List of illustrations page x
List of tables xii
Acknowledgments xiii
List of abbreviations xiv
1 Introduction 1
2 Diemut and the nun-scribes of Wessobrunn 32
3 Claustration and collaboration: the nun-scribes of Admont 65
4 Unlikely allies in the scriptorium: the female scribes of Schäftlarn 104
5 Conclusion 128
A Codicological tables 135
Explanation of codicological table headings 136
Wessobrunn 137
Admont 140
Schäftlarn 141
B Ruling patterns 143
Wessobrunn 145
Admont 146
Schäftlarn 147
Bibliography 173
Index 192


A Cruciform colophon in Irmingart’s book of homilies: Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 17087, f. 223v page 3
B Image of a nun preaching: Admont, Stiftsbibliothek MS 58, f. 1v 74
C The signature of the nun Sophya: Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 17052, f. 214v 121


These will be found between pp. 149 and 170.

  1   Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 22009 f. 4v

  2   Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 22002 f. 24r

  3   Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 22005 f. 29r

  4   Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 22002 f. 106v

  5   Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 22003 f. 54r

  6   Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 22002 f. 110v

  7   Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 22040 f. 3r

  8   Vorau, Stiftsbibliothek MS 193 f. 186r

  9   Admont, Stiftsbibliothek MS 650 f. 1v

  10   Admont, Stiftsbibliothek MS 650 f. 2r

11   Admont, Stiftsbibliothek MS 17 p. 270

12   Admont, Stiftsbibliothek MS 16 p. 227

13   Vorau, Stiftsbibliothek MS 193 f. 157v

14   Admont, Stiftsbibliothek MS 650 f. 26r

15   Admont, Stiftsbibliothek MS 16 p. 103

16   Admont, Stiftsbibliothek MS 17 p. 72

17   Vorau, Stiftsbibliothek MS 193 f. 167v

18   Admont, Stiftsbibliothek MS 682 f. 39r

19   Vorau, Stiftsbibliothek MS 193 f. 208r

20   Admont, Stiftsbibliothek MS 682 f. 1v

21   Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 17052 f. 214v

22   Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 17053 f. 108v

23   Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 17087 f. 10v

24   Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 17116 f. 3r


2.1 Lists of books copied by Diemut page 40
2.2 Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 22002 51
2.3 Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 22003 52
2.4 Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 22005 53
2.5 Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 22006 54
2.6 Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 22014 55
2.7 Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 22015 56
2.8 Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 22016 56
3.1 Surviving twelfth-century manuscripts from Bavarian monasteries 78
3.2 Reconstructed nuns’ library 80
3.3 Vorau, Stiftsbibliothek MS 193 92
3.4 Admont, Stiftsbibliothek MS 650 94
3.5 Admont, Stiftsbibliothek MS 682 95
3.6 Admont, Stiftsbibliothek MS 17 98
3.7 Admont, Stiftsbibliothek MS 16 99
3.8 Admont, Stiftsbibliothek MS 651 101
4.1 Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 17052 122
4.2 Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 17053 123
4.3 Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 17054 124
4.4 Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 17087 124


This book began as a question – a question posed to me in 1992 by Maria Grandinette (then head of the Conservation Unit at the University of Michigan Libraries, now head of Conservation Treatment at Stanford University), a fellow participant in one of the early online discussion groups at the University of Michigan. Her question was a simple one: “Did women copy books in the Middle Ages?” What follows here is the beginning of an answer to her question.

   I could not have undertaken and completed this project without the encouragement and support of many people. My greatest thanks are due to Robert Somerville, my doctoral advisor at Columbia University, who encouraged me to pursue this project and has remained supportive throughout. Special thanks are also due to Caroline W. Bynum, Consuelo Dutschke, Joan Ferrante, Elisabeth Klemm, Raymund Kottje, Milton McC. Gatch, and Johann Tomaschek, who provided useful comments and criticism when the book was still a dissertation, and to Giles Constable, Barbara Rosenwein, and Rodney Thomson, who generously read the typescript and provided a wealth of helpful suggestions. Many other friends and colleagues also provided support and advice along the way, especially Michael Blum, Katrinette Bodarwé, Stephan Borgehammar, Adam Cohen, Rachel Fulton, and Stefanie Seeberg. I would also like to thank Rosamond McKitterick and Teresa Webber, my series editors at Cambridge University Press, through whose patience and criticism this has become a much better book.

   I would also like to acknowledge the support and hospitality of a number of institutions: the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, the Department of Religion at Columbia University, Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, the Institute for Advanced Study, Stift Admont, Stift Vorau, and the Universitätsbibliothek Würzburg.

   Finally, I would like to thank my family: my parents, who have accepted my calling beyond our family business with grace, love, and even heartfelt enthusiasm; my children, Andrew and Eliza, who always remind me of what is most important in life; and my husband David, whose love and support are beyond measure.


AASS Acta sanctorum . . . editio novissima
CLA Lowe, Elias Avery, ed. Codices latini antiquiores: A Palaeographical Guide to Latin Manuscripts prior to the Ninth Century. Oxford, 1934–1966
Clm Codex latinus monacensis
CSEL Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum Latinorum
JL Jaffé, Philipp, Regesta pontificum romanorum ab condita ecclesia ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII. Second edition, corrected and supplemented by Samuel Loewenfeld, Ferdinand Kaltenbrunner, and Paul Ewald. 2 vols. Graz, 1956.
LThK Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche
MBKg Mittelalterliche Bibliothekskataloge Deutschlands und der Schweiz, vol. IV/2. ed. Günther Glauche and Hermann Knaus
MBKr Mittelalterliche Bibliothekskataloge Deutschlands und der Schweiz, vol. III/1. ed. Paul Ruf
MGH Monumenta Germaniae Historica
ÖMBK Mittelalterliche Bibliothekskataloge Österreichs, vol. III, ed. G. Möser-Mersky
PL Patrologiae cursus completus: series latina, ed. J. P. Migne, 221 vols., Paris, 1841–1864
RB 1980 RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, ed. Timothy Fry. Collegeville, MN, 1981
StM Studien und Mitteilungen zur Geschichte des Benediktiner-Ordens und seiner Zweige

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