The Cambridge Fish Scribe

Signatures in manuscripts

The Perne & Ward Libraries

Although few medieval scribes signed their work, there are exceptions in Peterhouse manuscripts. One man entered his name three times in a collection of commentaries on Aristotle: ‘written by me Tydeman of the Kingdom of Sweden, the Province of Närke, at the University of Cambridge, Kingdom of England, in the year 1450’ ( MS 188). Another man who produced a number of manuscripts for Peterhouse between 1418 and 1440 would be anonymous except for a fish. He did not provide his name, but he consistently ‘signed’ his work by drawing a fish around the catchword(s) written on the last folio of each quire (gathering of folios).

Fish 'signature', MS 114, f. 8v Fish ‘signature’, MS 114, f. 8v

The catchword inside the fish is the first word on the next page, in this case, the completion of a proper name, Ami-nadab.

Catchword as first word on next page, MS 114, f. 9 Catchword as first word on next page, MS 114, f. 9

The fish was first…

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