Parker's Scribes

Principle Investigator

  1. Alexandra Gillespie, Associate Professor, University of Toronto
  2. Simon Horobin, Reader in English Literature and Language, University of Oxford


  1. Emma Gorst, University of Toronto
  2. David Wilton, University of Toronto
  3. Aditi Nafde, Oxford University

Project Advisors

  1. Lawrence Warner, Lecturer in English, Sydney University, Australia
  2. Timothy Graham, Professor of Medieval History, University of New Mexico
  3. William Sherman, Professor of Renaissance/Early Modern Studies and Director of the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, University of York, UK
  4. Paul Patterson, Assistant Professor, St Joseph’s University, Philadelphia


The project will take the opportunity provided by Parker on the Web, (http://www.parkerweb.stanford.ed), to index all of the notes left by Archbishop Matthew Parker and the Elizabethan scholars, secretaries, clerks, copyists, and even forgers who built and made use of his collection of books. The project’s investigators will list marks in sixteenth-century hands in Parker’s books now in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (and in digital form on Parker on the Web). They will try to identify the individuals who made these marks; categorize and analyze their work for Parker; and then follow the traces left by these men in manuscript and printed books and documents stored outside of the Parker collection.

The project’s final objective is to describe the importance of Parker’s books and the literate activities that his collection sustained to England’s religious settlement; Elizabeth I’s polity; the writing of nationhood in Elizabethan England in early modern histories, poems, and plays; and to lasting ideas about historical authenticity, temporality, the English Middle Ages, and the medieval book.


The proposed project will link the hands that appear in Parker’s books to the men who worked for him - hopefully including some of the scribes whose names are now lost or whose work scholars have not yet described. It will then extend outwards – to printed and manuscript books and documents that are not in the Corpus Christi collection but which were once part of Parker’s great bibliographical project.

The project contributes to discussion of the nature and impact of the transition from manuscript to print and the influence of scribal traditions on print. It provides a new way to approach the matter of the medieval-early modern transition. Finally, the project will raise some more theoretical questions. How is the authenticity – the authentic “pastness” – of a book or text established and in what ways is it troublesome to establish? How are books and texts important to traditions of chronology and to conventional ideas of temporality and how are they disruptive? In what ways did the medieval artifacts treated by Parker and his scribes shape Elizabethan culture, and how did they unsettle that culture?