Square Minuscule in the Age of Cnut the Great
cnut the great
English Language and Literature
European Languages and Societies
Beowulf scholars wishing to eliminate a late date for the poem have embraced David Dumville’s stringent position that, although the scribes almost certainly copied the manuscript in the early eleventh century, it is “in the highest degree unlikely” they copied it after 1016. There is no obvious nor expressed justification for limiting a scribe’s life or career to the year Æthelred died and Cnut the Great became king. Dumville’s argument was that he could find no examples of Square minuscule that anyone could prove was written after 1013. In his exhaustive Catalogue of Manuscripts containing Anglo-Saxon, Neil Ker cautiously avoids such narrow dating ranges for undated manuscripts, relying instead on thirty-year or (more often) fifty-year dating ranges. By his system, Ker classified more than two dozen scribal hands as late types of “square Anglo-Saxon minuscule.” Analyses of Ker’s examples of early eleventh-century Square minuscule prove that scribes maintained the script type throughout the reign of Cnut. Some examples suggest that the scribes most likely copied Beowulf in the first half of his reign.