St cuthbert’s gospel

The magic of manuscripts

Manuscripts have something of the appeal of drawings. They bring you closer to the creative process. Even a copy adds something special to the text: an editorial twist, a decorated initial, a margin full of beasts or just a beautiful script in which every letter is fashioned by hand like no other. Manuscripts do more than convey information. Their creation calls for imagination, physical effort, a love of meaning and beauty. They are works of art in their own right. I specialise in the most unpoetic kind of manuscript: administrative records of military and political history. But even they speak to us directly. ‘You fool — Norwich is inland’ is