Adam Pinkhurst

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Adam Pinkhurst is a medieval scribe of London, who copied work of the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, including the Hengwrt Chaucer and the Ellesmere Chaucer manuscripts. Identified in 2004 by professor Linne Mooney, he was possibly the person to whom Chaucer addressed his short poem, "Adam, his owne Scriveyn".

Scribe B revealed

Scrutinous research has led academics to conclude that the Hengwrt and the Ellesmere Chaucer manuscripts were copied by the same scribe. This scribe, known as Scribe B, has also been identified at work on the copy of Gower's Confessio Amantis and the Cecil Fragment of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. [1] During the academic year 2003-2004 professor Linne Mooney, a scholar from The University of Maine in the USA, was a Visiting Fellow at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge. She was working at the Cambridge Computer Laboratory on computer-assisted identification of medieval scribal handwriting. Mooney was compiling a database of more than two hundred scribes working in England between 1375 and 1425, whose handwriting is found in more than one manuscript. [2] Hence she is an authority on the calligraphy of that period. She compared the hand of Scribe B on the manuscripts with the signatures on oaths in the early records of the Scriveners' Company in the city of London. Entry eight in the Company's member's book of regulations gave a match and revealed the name Adam Pinkhurst. This indicates that Pinkhurst joined soon after the scriveners began keeping systematic records in the year 1392. That date accords with the period of Chaucer's life and authorship.

Scribe Adam Pinkhurst and his trade

Professor Mooney’s research led to Surrey, a county south of London. Records of transactions in the 1350s, and 1370s about properties in Dorking, and surrounding villages, involved an Adam Pinkhurst and his wife Johanna, probably the scribe's parents. There was also a Pinkhurst Farm near Abinger Common, between Guildford and Dorking.
So ... Adam Pinkhurst could be the son of small landowners, who lived within a short distance of London. He went to the City to learn to be a scribe, and make his living as a writer of legal documents, petitions, accounts, and court letters.
After 1373, the Scriveners' Company designated the space a scribe occupied as a shop, subject to guild authority, enforced by the London mayor and his aldermen. Pinkhurst's work was since then narrowly defined. Book-making, on the other hand, was not yet bound by regulation.
In the 1380's, Pinkhurst compiled accounts for the Mercer's Guild. The Hospital of St. Thomas of Acon was a meeting place for that guild, and moreover, Pinkhurst was involved in a transaction over a tenement adjoining the hospital. Therefore Mooney speculates that he may have conducted his scribal work out of the hospital. [3] [4]
All this leads to the conclusion that scribe Adam Pinkhurst seems to have been a busy freelance professional. He was without a doubt involved in copying Chaucer's works, but he also copied the works of other authors, like Gower and Langland, as well as a range of non-literary texts. Since Chaucer did not make his living from his poetry, Pinkhurst could not have relied entirely upon him for his livelihood. He had to look for commissions from a range of different employers requiring copies of a variety of different types of text. [5]

Chaucer's poem for Adam

Before Mooney's discovery, 'Adam' was known only as the subject of a short poem, published after Chaucer's death. Pinkhurst's first name however, led Mooney to conclude that the poem was adressed to scribe Adam Pinkhurst himself.

Adam scriveyn, if ever it thee bifalle
Boece or Troylus for to wryten newe,
Under thy long lokkes thou most have the scalle,
But after my makyng thow wryte more trewe,
So ofte adaye I mot thy werke renewe
It to correcte, and eke to rubbe and scrape,
And al is thorugh thy negligence and rape. [6]

Chaucer complains about the amount of correction, 'the rubbe and scrape', that is required on account of Adam's negligence and haste. He even curses him with 'scalle', a scabby disease of the skin and scalp, should he ever copy Boece and Troilus and Criseyde again in such a way. The poem indicates the practice that long texts were copied by a professional scribe and that, during the process, they were returned to the author for correction. [7] The fact that 'Adam' worked in such a haste, could also indicate that he had also other assignments as a scribe.

The poem appears in only one manuscript, the Cambridge Trinity MS R. 3.20. It was copied in the 1430s by the scribe John Shirley, who gave it the title ‘‘Chaucers Wordes Unto Adam, His Owne Scriveyn’’ [8]

Sources and references

  1. Horobin
  2. Chaucer scribe revealed
  3. Mooney, p. 111.
  4. Gillespie, p.98.
  5. Treharne, p. 61.
  6. Riverside, p. 650.
  7. Pearsall, p. 177.
  8. Lerer, p. 117-146.