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Documents and books: a case study of Luket Nantron and Geoffrey Spirleng as fifteenth-century administrators and textwriters.

Upon his return to England in the aftermath of the Hundred Years War, Sir John Fastolf embarked upon a program of property acquisition in East Anglia. Caister Castle, on the coast of Norfolk, was one of the properties he acquired and began to improve and by 1448 it was a complete, furnished, impressive castellated residence. However, Caister was not Fastolfs residence until 1454. From 1438 until 1454 he spent the majority of his time at "Fastolf Place" in Southwark. Caister could not manage itself, though, so Fastolf endowed it with a full complement of servants, and tasked local men with advising him and representing him in legal cases held in Norwich, Yarmouth and King's Lynn. One such man was his "chaplain" Thomas Howes. Though Howes was "chaplain" in job-title, and though he was indeed responsible for religious elements of daily life at Caister, Howes was more than what we might today deem a "chaplain." Thomas Howes managed Fastolf's other servants, directed his non-resident legal advisors, and dispatched goods to Fastolf in London. Howes's administrative tasks were so diverse that he had his own administrative assistant, a man named Geoffrey Spirleng. It is with Geoffrey Spirleng that this examination of the work of junior clerks will begin. Spirleng went on to write a copy of The Canterbury Tales, together with his son Thomas. However, this did not happen until at least thirty years after he began to work as an assistant to Thomas Howes. This article will examine Spirleng's early work in the circle of Sir John Fastolf, and his progression up a kind of career ladder within the circle. Finally, it will attempt to relate the clerkly work that Spirleng did for Howes with his later literary output.

The second man with whom this article is concerned is one with the unusual name of Luket Nantron. Nantron was a native of Paris, and his name first appears in the corpus of letters and documents associated with Sir John Fastolf in 1455 and 1456. His given name was possibly an anglicization in the same way that the Italian merchant Carlo Gigli was referred to as Karoll Giles within the Fastolf circle. (1) In contrast with Spirleng, Nantron was mostly connected with Fastolfs interests in London, as he worked alongside Fastolfs London-based receiver Christopher Hansson. (2) However, his work with Hansson highlights some similarities between Nantron and Spirleng, as both men were assisting more senior members of Fastolf's circle. Like Spirleng, Nantron performed general and apparently mundane clerkly duties, but unlike Spirleng he appears to have first become associated with Fastolf during Fastolfs time in the service of John Duke of Bedford (b. 1389 to d. 1435) in France. Both of these men produced "literary" work as the scribes of manuscript books, and carried out this work alongside their duties as clerks writing documents and letters. There are two letters in the Paston Letters corpus from one of the family's scribes, William Ebesham, to John Paston II in which he listed his scribal output and asked for payment for the work (letters 751 and 755). In these lists he grouped together his administrative work ("wrytyng of the prue seal" and "witnesses") with his work as a copyist of books (seven quires of the "great book," a "book of physyke"). He was also responsible for book decoration (he asked for payment for "rubrissheng of all the booke"). This valuable document gives information about how written administration and the writing of literature related to each other in the Paston circle. Unfortunately, no such account exists for Sir John Fastolf and his scribes. Therefore, this article will look for similar information indirectly by piecing together alternative sources of evidence.

This article draws together circumstantial and palaeographical evidence concerning Spirleng and Nantron as men who began their writing careers in the circle of Sir John Fastolf. Both of these men began drafting letters and documents, and ended their careers having produced high-prestige literary books (one of them within a few years of having been trained in basic writing skills). This will be a study of life as a young, junior, or inexperienced clerk within Fastolfs circle of men. The evidence that it will unearth and interpret will add to our scant knowledge about how scribes were trained, and about the milieu from which copyists of major literary works were drawn.

In 1448, when he was just twenty-two years old, Geoffrey Spirleng moved from room to room around Caister Castle making an inventory of its contents. (3) He recorded everything from the copious number of items of clothing in Fastolf's wardrobe, to the vestments in the chapel, to the brass pots in the kitchen. Among the most interesting items entered into the inventory by Spirleng were the seventeen books stored in the "stewe hous," or bath room, next to Fastolfs chamber. Spirleng listed these books by their title and, where relevant, their author and it was possibly he who underlined each of the titles for emphasis. Spirleng was eager to stamp his identity on the inventory: the confirmation that it was he who wrote the document comes from his inscription on the vellum cover of the book into which the leaves of the inventory were bound. This inventory was not Geoffrey Spirleng's earliest piece of written work for Sir John Fastolf, though it was his most substantial. A year earlier he wrote his earliest extant letter in the capacity of assistant to Thomas Howes. (4) From this point onwards, when letters passed from Thomas Howes, Walter Shipdham and William Cole, to Fastolf, the letter was usually co-addressed from Spirleng and was in his hand. (5) When letters passed in the opposite direction, from Fastolf to his receivers in Norfolk, Walter Shipdham and William Cole, Fastolf always included Thomas Howes in the address. (6) This was the medieval predecessor of an email from a company Director to his or her executives, copied to the Office Manager for his information. The letters were never co-addressed to Howes' assistant Geoffrey Spirleng. However, circumstantial evidence within these letters reveals Spirleng's close involvement with documents associated with Fastolf and his interests. (7) Thus it is conceivable that Geoffrey Spirleng was responsible for the storage of this correspondence between Fastolf and his Norfolk-based associates. Indeed, the numerous times that the letters mention Spirleng fetching documents for Fastolf suggest that it was he who best knew how and where written information was stored. (8)

The earliest extant work of Luket Nantron as clerk dates from almost a decade after Spirleng began his career. However, the nature of the work was similar. In a letter tentatively dated by Norman Davis to November 1456, Fastolf told John Paston that he had received a letter from William Barker, written in Nantron's hand, regarding his servants at the manor of Cotton. (9) William Barker, like Thomas Howes, was a servant of Sir John Fastolf. Therefore Nantron, like Spirleng, was writing letters on behalf of another man regarding the management of Fastolf's properties and servants. Nantron stands out among Fastolfs writers due to the evidence that he acted as a scribe for men who were themselves competent and practiced writers. He wrote for William Barker, who was scribe of twelve letters from Fastolf (making him Fastolfs second most prolific scribe). He also acted as a scribe for another of Fastolfs associates, Henry Winsdor, apparently of the Chancery. (10) Windsor wrote to John Paston, excusing himself for using "Luket" as his secretary but he "had no leiser" to write the letter himself (letter 574, lines 7 to 8). The fact that these men delegated work to Nantron suggests that he was working at the bottom of a hierarchy of scribes, or at least that he was more accustomed to doing general clerkly work such as drafting letters. In contrast, Spirleng was writing for Thomas Howes, who hardly ever wrote an autograph letter, and when he did it was in an unsophisticated hand that suggests he was not a well-practiced writer.

In the case of Spirleng, Richard Beadle has already speculated about how he gained his clerkly skills. He has postulated that the close working relationship between Thomas Howes and his young assistant suggests that Spirleng may have been trained by Howes. As an alternative he suggested that Spirleng might have been schooled "in business and estate management of the kind that was available, for example, in Oxford." (11) A third possibility, which Beadle did not suggest, is that Spirleng received his training in London, and since Fastolf was living in London in the 1440s it is quite possible that he encountered the young Spirleng there. (12) This article will look more closely at the inventory, Fastolf Paper 43, along with Spirleng's earliest letters, in an attempt to make a more definite statement about his training. Nantron's development as a clerk has been discussed less than Spirleng's. Up until now there has been no evidence of his work as a scribe of documents and letters: it was only the indirect circumstantial details discussed above that indicated that he ever did this kind of work. This article will present new palaeographical evidence of Nantron's work. These samples of the inexperienced Nantron's hand have the potential to enrich our knowledge of the training undertaken by inexperienced scribes within a gentry circle.

Spirleng's inventory, Fastolf Paper 43, is a neat piece of work that contains few corrections (see figure 1). The scribal work was much more carefully executed than the work of William Worcester in the same inventory, which was done in order to update the inventory in 1454. This suggests that Spirleng drafted the inventory before copying it neatly. This appears especially likely when the document is compared with other record-keeping documents such as Oxford, Magdalen College, Fastolf Paper 25, an account roll from 1444 to 1445 which was scrawled on a narrow strip of paper. Perhaps Spirleng also produced rough notes on scraps of vellum or paper before copying them into this neat book. However, the fact that Spirleng left a significant amount of blank space for certain rooms suggests that he intended the document to be a work in progress. The competence of Spirleng's scribal work in this document makes it difficult to make statements about the way in which he was trained. There is no evidence, either, that Spirleng had any assistance in compiling this inventory: his work was not checked or corrected, and the only other hand in this book is William Worcester's, added a decade later.

Luket Nantron's earliest piece of documentary work is very different from Spirleng's carefully-written inventory. Oxford, Magdalen College, Fastolf Paper 48 is a draft petition by Sir John Fastolf concerning the dispute between himself and Huw Fastolf over the estate of Bradwell in Suffolk. There is no date on the document, but since the dispute was being discussed in letters around 1455 to 1456, it is likely that the petition was written around then. (13) The first forty-six lines of the petition were written by Nantron and the rest was written by a second scribe. (14) The second scribe also corrected Nantron (see figures 2 and 3). He made the odd superscript addition, and corrected short phrases within the first forty-six lines. Nantron made some basic drafting mistakes, such as omitting the regnal year in the formula "yere of the Regne of kyng herry the sext with ought any thyng yeldyng." In this case, the correcting scribe inserted "xxxi" superscript to indicate the missing year. On occasions, the correcting hand made additions, supplementing information that he believed was missing from the work of the first scribe. For example, he altered "... the summe of vixx x marc wheche is xx li more than ever the seyd wentworth offered for the same ..." to "... the summe of vixx x marc wheche is xx li more than ever the seyd wentworth \or any odir/ offered for the same ..." (my emphasis). He also clarified Nantron's work where Nantron had written that the profits of Bradwell should go to John Paston and Sir John Fastolf by adding "& the king not berof." By making these kinds of clarifications, the correcting scribe made the requests of the petition clearer and more legally sound. The final kind of minor correction was to make small alterations to the phrasing of the petition. For example, he altered "the patentis" to "the \seyd/ patentis" by inserting the phrase "the seyd" superscript, and he changed "the seyd Paston" to "[[begin strikethrough]the seyd[end strikethrough]] Paston," by cancelling the phrase "the seyd." The application of the prefix "said" to a noun or proper noun was something in which Nantron evidently still needed guidance, which again indicates that he was a novice scribe. Later in the document the correcting scribe made more major corrections, crossing out lines 44 to 46 of the first scribe's work and replacing them with superscript corrections. (15) Finally, he took over the drafting of the petition and went on to write the rest of the document. Years after this document was written by the inexperienced Nantron, Henry Windsor moaned to his associate John Paston, that he had to deal with documents that had been drawn up by an inept scribe: "And also, sir, [William Worcester] hath caused me to examyn olde and mony records writon by som fTenshman concernyng the manoir of Dedham, that was a comberouse labour for these copies were full defectif ..." (letter 574, lines 11 to 5). It is mere speculation, since no palaeographical evidence exists to back up the suggestion, but it is possible that the inexperienced French scribe Windsor referred to was Luket Nantron. If this were the case, then Nantron had a hand in even more documents than have been referred to in this article.

Fastolf Paper 48 is the first document to be uncovered that contains significant internal evidence about how scribes were trained within this circle of men. It appears from the petition that the second scribe supervised the drafting of this document, allowing the first to write forty-six lines before stopping him to check the work and make alterations. For some reason, the second scribe decided to take the work away from the first and write the rest of the petition himself. Considering he had needed to correct three whole lines of the first scribe's work, perhaps he decided that the first scribe was not proficient enough to complete the task, or that it was more time-efficient to do the work himself. Comparing the scribal work of the correcting scribe with letters in the Fastolf Letters and Papers corpus has revealed the identity of the correcting scribe. The man who was supervising Luket Nantron was William Barker, the scribe who wrote the second-highest number of letters for Sir John Fastolf after William Worcester. (16) This identification arises from similarities between the corrections and Fastolf Paper 26, a letter that Barker wrote on behalf of his master Sir John Fastolf (figure 4). Barker in figure 4, and the correcting hand of figure 3 both wrote the same looped d (fig. 3, line 3 "trowbled", fig. 4, line 7 "payed"), f (fig. 3, line 6 "of", fig. 4, line 11 "for"), sigmoid s (fig. 3, line 6 "this", fig. 4, line 12 "was"), looped w (fig. 3, line 7 "wheche", fig. 4, line 7 "wherefore"), loose anglicana e (fig. 3, line 8 "bille", fig 4, line 1 "where"), k (fig. 3, line 9 "kyng", fig. 4, line 4 "lyke"), looped b (fig. 3, line 9 "beyng", fig 4, line 3 "bille"), p with a very long descender (fig. 3, line 11 "put", fig. 4, line 5 "prisoner"), y (fig. 3, line 13 "they", fig. 4, line 10 "compleyneth"), and long s (fig. 3, line 13 "seyd". fig. 4, line 13 "present"). (17)

Moving on to other written pieces that concern Luket Nantron and William Barker, there are two letters in the Paston Letters corpus that contain exactly the same information, with only minor variations in wording. One is folio 35 of British Library, Ms. Additional 39848, and the other is folio 36 (letter 538 in Davis's edition). The first version of the letter was composed on 25th January 1456 from Fastolf to John Paston and Lady Whytyngham, and the second version was written five days later to Lady Whytyngham alone. Norman Davis attributed the copies to two different unidentified hands. The version on folio 35, as Norman Davis stated in the headnote to the letter in his edition, was formally written and was sent to its recipient judging by the appearance of the dorse of the letter. The second version was corrected by William Worcester and was also sent.

It appears from a comparison of these two letters with other samples of the work of Fastolf s scribes, that the version on folio 35 was written by Luket Nantron, and that the version on folio 36 was written by William Barker. The fact that it was the version that was written by William Barker that was corrected by William Worcester is surprising considering Barker's seniority to Nantron. However, this does make sense when one considers that Nantron's version was probably intended for Paston's information alone, whereas Barker's version was actually going to be sent to Lady Whytyngham. (18) It was because of this that William Worcester, as Fastolf's diligent secretary, felt it necessary to get involved and make corrections. This means that minor corrections are preserved in Barker's version that do not appear in Nantron's. For example, Barker's letter reads "right likly \ys/ to be," while Nantron's reads "right lykly to be." That Luket Nantron would write the version of the letter that was intended for Paston's records, whereas Barker would write the final version to be sent to its final recipient is most logical in the context of the hierarchy that is emerging in this study.

So it seems that Luket Nantron, an inexperienced scribe in the mid-1450s, was tasked by William Barker with basic clerkly duties as part of his training. Then, as his career progressed he was utilised by both Barker and other servants of Fastolf to carry out the mundane scribal work that they did not have the time to do themselves. Is there similar circumstantial evidence about the training of Geoffrey Spirleng? There is certainly evidence that Spirleng spent most of his working hours with Thomas Howes in 1447/8. In 1447, Howes sent Spirleng to Martham to make genealogical enquiries connected with his dispute over the estate of Titchwell (letter 961, line 68). In December 1448, the two men went together to Norwich to try to get a copy of a document related to Titchwell (letter 964, lines 5 to 7). A month later Spirleng was doing the "foot work" to retrieve some metal clasps that had been asked for by Fastolf (letter 965, lines 25 to 28). And of the four letters that were addressed from Howes in 1447 to 1449, three were written by Geoffrey Spirleng. There was no mention of Spirleng being trained by Thomas Howes, but this shows that the two men were certainly working together, and that Spirleng was certainly Howes's assistant.

Looking at the three extant letters written by Geoffrey Spirleng might reveal more about how he as a young scribe gained and developed his ability to write. Magdalen College, Hickling 140, is a remarkably neat letter. It is peppered with his own interlinear alterations, but these are mainly minor one-word corrections (such as the alteration of "gef credence to this for it hath ..." to "gef credence to this \writing/ for it hath ..."). There is a line that has been entirely crossed out, and individual words that have been eliminated in the same way. Spirleng corrected his own grammar in Magdalen College, Titchwell 158, dated to January 1440: he altered "we fynde also" to "we found also." However, neither of these two early letters stand out as the work of an inexperienced trainee scribe, and they were not corrected by any other man. So though there is evidence that Spirleng worked within the Fastolf circle in a junior position, there is no evidence that he gained his ability to write within the circle. This supports Richard Beadle's suggestion that Spirleng entered the circle having already been trained in business and estate management. (19) Indeed, Beadle has also pointed out that Spirleng's personal accounts reveal that he must have been of "some standing," as his annual stipend was 40 shillings, "a handsome wage for a clerk at the outset of his career," especially as he was provided with accommodation at Caister Castle. (20) Despite having the foundations of a high status, it appears that the young Geoffrey Spirleng required guidance in the interpersonal skills that a man needed to function within a gentry circle. Fastolf wrote: "... I pray you to do sende for William Cole ... and that Geffrey Spyrlyng forbere hym and gefe non occasion to displese hym" (letter 990, line 52). William Cole was an important man as Fastolfs chief auditor, and thus Fastolf was concerned with ensuring that his young clerk did not upset him. This may indicate either that Cole was especially temperamental, or that Spirleng had yet to develop his skills of discretion. Fastolf demonstrated that he was used to men taking sides against him after being upset by one of his associates: "... I vndrestand that Robert Norwych wolle not occupie as vndreshyreff, because that Jenneys had geve hem langage that was not hys plesure ..." (letter 1006, lines 5 to 6). So the busy Sir John Fastolf felt that a potential confrontation between Geoffrey Spirleng and William Cole warranted his sending a special instruction to Spirleng's supervisor, Thomas Howes.

Even if Geoffrey Spirleng was not trained to write "in-house," it appears that his first written work within a gentry household context was done for Sir John Fastolf. So both he and Luket Nantron did their first administrative and epistolary written work within the circle of Fastolf. Both of these inexperienced clerks went on to write manuscript books. This article will now turn to the relationship between their early clerkly work and this later output as the writers of manuscript books.

It is Luket Nantron's hand in London, College of Arms, Ms. M.9 that makes it possible to identify his hand in Fastolf Paper 48 (see figure 5). The text in this manuscript is Basset's Chronicle, a "plain soldierly account of the wars" that was intended as a presentation piece for Sir John Fastolf. It was composed by Peter Basset and Christopher Hansson, who were, according to Louise Campbell's catalogue of manuscripts in the College of Arms, "both men serving with English garrisons in the Maine district of France in the years covered by the chronicle." (21) Campbell described the hand of Basset's Chronicle as "possibly" that of Luket Nantron. The manuscript itself contains a heading, written by William Worcester, which lists all of the men involved in the writing of the Chronicle. Among these is "luketNantron natus de Parys vnus de clericis Johannis ffastof." As Nantron was the only man described here by Worcester as a "clerk," it seems likely that he was the scribe of the text in the College of Arms manuscript. It is by comparing the palaeographical features of this manuscript with those of the draft petition Fastolf Paper 48 that it can be stated that the drafting clerk was the same man who wrote Basset's Chronicle. Both the clerk of the petition, and the scribe of Basset's Chronicle used a very tall capital A (fig. 2, line 1 "and," fig 5, line 1 "avaint"), they wrote an identical g (fig. 2, line 1 "greet," fig 5., line 36 "grant"), the symbol they used to abbreviate "sir" was the same (fig. 2, line 5 "sir," fig. 5, line 14 "sir"), as was the biting "de" (fig. 2, line 7 "founde," fig. 5, line 4 'de'). The p written in each manuscript has the same looped hook (fig. 2, line 9 "put," fig. 5, line 17 "piquet"), and the h (fig. 2, line 10 "the," fig. 5, line 32 "henry"), capital B (fig. 2, line 11 "Bradwell," fig. 5, line 16 "Baron"), y (fig. 2, line 11 "conceyue," fig. 5, line 33 "Gyugy"), and 2-shaped r (fig. 2, line 11 "creature," fig. 5, line 37 "Bellencombre") are all identical.

Basset's Chronicle was not completed by the time of Fastolfs death in 1459, which dates Nantron's hand in the text to the period immediately preceding this date. (22) K.B. McFarlane suggested that Nantron not only contributed towards this text in the capacity of scribe, but that the words were his own, and that it was in fact he who led its composition. (23) So the palaeographical evidence in this chronicle, combined with that in documents written in the mid-1450s, reveals that Nantron did high prestige work as a textwriter, and possibly as a composer, just two or three years after he was having his basic drafting work corrected by William Barker.

Nantron's foray into the composition and writing of literature appears to have been an isolated event. His duties were primarily the practical "clerkly" duties associated with the management and protection of Fastolf's properties. Christopher Hansson and Luket Nantron sustained their working relationship for years after they collaborated on Basset's Chronicle. After writing the Chronicle, they returned to the practical duties associated with collecting revenues and administering Fastolfs will after his death. (24) There was a fourth man involved in Basset's Chronicle: Fastolfs secretary, William Worcester. His work in the Chronicle also demonstrates the parallels between administrative and literary written work. Worcester stated, in the title to the Chronicle, that he was the corrector of the text: "per diligenciam Willelmi Wircestre" I have identified Luket Nantron's hand in a petition from Worcester to James, bishop of Norwich, which was corrected by William Worcester himself (letter 1049, probably 1472). Finally, I have found Luket Nantron once more in British Library, Ms. Sloane 4, a compilation of medical recipes that was made after Fastolfs death. This collection is dominated by the hand of William Worcester, whose work was added to by numerous sixteenth-century readers. However, there is another contemporary hand in the manuscript, which wrote a text that spans folios 29r to 35v, beginning "summa de crisi et criticis diebus...." Palaeographical features identify the hand as Luket Nantron, and since each of the dated texts in this manuscript were dated between 1468 and 1471, it seems that this is a example of Nantron's text hand when he was an older man. It is neat, with relatively few mistakes, but interestingly there is once again evidence that his work was checked and amended. This evidence is in the margin of folio 30v, where William Worcester drew a symbol which signified that continuation of the text at this point could be found where he had drawn a corresponding symbol on folio 35v. Perhaps Worcester was re-organizing the text as it was originally laid out by Nantron?

So the training and supervision of Luket Nantron appears to have been an ongoing process: he was being corrected in the 1450s by William Barker as might be expected for an inexperienced scribe, but he was also being supervised in the 1470s. Luket Nantron gained his writing skills through drafting petitions, but he applied his ability to write, with apparent ease, to the production of a literary manuscript just a few years later. Having produced this one-off piece of work, he returned to the clerkly duties he was apparently most accustomed to. Luket Nantron, it seems, was a junior clerk whose connections with the military man Christopher Hansson made him the logical choice as scribe of Basset's Chronicle. He was first and foremost a clerk and assistant, but his work demonstrates his flexibility as a writer within the Fastolf circle.

There is no evidence that Geoffrey Spirleng was scribe of any manuscript book during Fastolfs lifetime: perhaps he was too busy. There is a five-year hiatus in evidence concerning Geoffrey Spirleng in the Fastolf letters and papers between 1450 and 1455. While this is frustrating for scholars attempting to track his early career, it does make his rise through the ranks of Fastolfs circle even more striking when one compares his duties before and after the hiatus. There is one letter from the mid-1450s that shows that Spirleng had moved on from his work as the scribe of letters for Thomas Howes, and was by this time writing for Fastolfhimself (letter 547, written in 1455). This does not necessarily mean that there had been an improvement in his abilities--his early work shows that he was a competent clerk from the outset of his career. However, it does show that he was by this time working closer to Fastolf himself, and it was perhaps this proximity that allowed Fastolf to spot his potential. Indeed, Spirleng was by the late-1450s acting as an auditor for Fastolf (see letter 572). Anthony Smith has highlighted the importance of this role by pointing out that Fastolfs auditors gave him the means to monitor the performance of his other officials. (25) We have already seen the care with which Fastolf treated William Cole, his chief auditor.

Spirleng, in his later career, became one of Fastolf's most peripatetic servants, travelling around East Anglia, and as far as Yorkshire, in the course of his duties (letters 558, 569, 883, and 585). Though in 1458 he spent eight weeks living with Fastolf, he also spent "iij quarters of a yeere after" apart from him, probably drawn away by the demands of managing Fastolfs interests around the country (letters 603, lines 8 to 9 and lines 37 to 38). Spirleng's importance among Fastolfs circle of men is apparent in a letter that Spirleng himself wrote in 1460, two years after Fastolfs death: he testified that at Halloween 1458 he was with Fastolf, and that Fastolf told him what he wanted to do with his lands after his death. Not only did Fastolf apparently confide in Spirleng, but he seems to have listened to what he had to say: "And thanne it fortuned me to syt sadly and noted these wordys, and in maner he toke a conceyt in me of some woordys bat softely I answered in ..." (letter 603). Spirleng's writing indicates that by this date he had gained the interpersonal skills that he apparently lacked as a younger man: he knew that to remain in the favor of the irascible Fastolf he had to speak "softely." This information demonstrates how far Spirleng had progressed within Fastolfs circle since he had joined it as the young assistant to Thomas Howes. He had travelled up the hierarchy so much that his evidence became integral in the dispute over Fastolf's will.

The only evidence of Geoffrey Spirleng's work as a textwriter dates from twenty years after Fastolf's death. Glasgow University Library, Huntarian Ms. U.1.1, a copy of The Canterbury Tales, was written by Geoffrey and his son Thomas Spirleng during the time that he was in residence in Norwich acting as common clerk to the city of Norwich. Richard Beadle has argued that Spirleng's "daily association at Caister with cultivated and bookish men like William Worcester and Stephen Scrope" probably "left its mark" by encouraging Spirleng to develop literary leanings. (26) There is no written evidence that Spirleng read, was read to, owned, or copied, any literary books during his time in the service of Sir John Fastolf. However, he certainly encountered books, and the list of Fastolf's books in Fastolf Paper 43 demonstrates that he knew Fastolf's book collection well, as he listed its authors and titles diligently. Just as Nantron's work in Basset's Chronicle suggests a connection between literary and administrative work, due to the ease with which he switched between the two modes of writing and the working relationships that transferred between literary and administrative work, Spirleng's work in Huntarian, Ms. U.1.1 also suggests parallels between clerkly work and the work of a textwriter. In Spirleng's case, this is due to the palaeographical features of the Canterbury Tales manuscript. Though the manuscript was copied to a higher degree of neatness than Fastolf Paper 43, and the manuscript has an appropriate two-column layout, the appearance of the page reflects Spirleng's training as a clerk. The rubricated titles are similar to the titles of Fastolf Paper 43, which break the document down into Caister's constituent rooms (see figure 1). Spirleng divided the text of the Canterbury Tales with the same paraph marks, giving the page the same visual aspect. In fact, apart from the enlarged rubricated initials, there is not much to visually separate the two modes of writing. By the time that Spirleng wrote Huntarian, Ms. U.1.1 he was an expert writer: Manly and Rickert pointed out that compared to Thomas, Geoffrey's hand in the manuscript "is the freer and more graceful." He also made numerous corrections to his son's work, for example, on folio 101, where Thomas omitted a passage and Geoffrey provided it in the margin. (27) This evidence demonstrates that a man who had been trained in administrative clerkly work could turn his hand to literary production with relative ease. Of course, the production of manuscripts within Fastolfs circle had degrees of formality. So when Fastolf wanted an expensive decorated book like Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud Misc 570, he turned to Ricardus Franciscus who it seems was working within a circle of textwriters and decorators in London. (28) However, books like Laud Misc 570 were exceptional cases: in the case of Basset's Chronicle, and Spirleng's Canterbury Tales, it seems that a man who was trained for the written tasks of a clerk was also prepared to write manuscript books if it were required of him. That these men seemingly fit in the production of such books around their day-to-day administrative tasks is evidence for the lack of a divide between the two types of duty. Both Luket Nantron and Geoffrey Spirleng were well-trained and flexible scribes who were required and willing to apply their ability to write to whatever was demanded of them. This mirrors what existing scholarship has revealed about other writers of literary texts whose hands are found in administrative documents, such as Adam Pinkhurst, (29) Ricardus Franciscus, (30) and the Hammond Scribe. (31) Where this study differs is in being able to track two scribes' careers from their very beginnings through to their latest stages. We are able to see Geoffrey Spirleng as a young, inexperienced clerk, and follow him up the hierarchy within Fastolf's circle. Then we can see him moving beyond this after Fastolf's death and reaching the pinnacle of his career, being appointed city clerk and training own son, Thomas, to write. Luket Nantron's biography is less complete: it is not possible to track it in the same way as Spirleng's. Nevertheless, we can see in him as a man whose primary work was as an administrator, but who turned his hand at least once to writing high quality manuscript books.

Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York.







(1.) See Norman Davis ed., Paston Letters and Papers, part 2, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), letter 574. All further references to letters and documents in this edition will be presented in parentheses, along with letter number and line number where relevant. Letter numbers 421 to 930 refer to part 2. It was Jonathan Hughes who identified the Italian name behind the anglicization: Jonathan Hughes, "Stephen Scrope and the Circle of Sir John Fastolf: Moral and Intellectual Outlooks," in Medieval Knighthood IV. Papers from the Fifth Strawberry Holl Conference, 1990, edited by C. Harper-Bill and R Harvey (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1992), 109-46, 132.

(2.) A receiver was responsible for collecting his master's revenues, such as rent paid by his tenants. For some written evidence of Christopher Hansson's activities in this capacity see Oxford, Magdalen College, Fastolf Paper 51, an account roll by Christopher Hansson of rents due to Sir John Fastolf.

(3.) Oxford, Magdalen College, Fastolf Paper 43.

(4.) Richard Beadle and Colin Richmond eds., Paston Letters and Papers of the Fifteenth Century, part 3, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), letter number 961. All further references to letters and documents in this edition will be presented in parentheses, along with letter number and line number where relevant. Letter numbers 931 to 1051 refer to part 3.

(5.) See for example letters 964 and 965 in Beadle and Richmond's edition.

(6.) This point was made by Richard Beadle in "Geoffrey Spirleng (c.1426 to c.1494): a Scribe of the Canterbury Tales in his Time," in Of the Making of Books: Medieval Manuscripts, Their Scribes and Reader: Essays Presented to M. B. Parkes, edited by P. R. Robinson and Rivkah Zim, 116 to 46 (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1997), 122. See letter 962 in Beadle and Richmond's edition as an example.

(7.) See, for example, letter 964 which records Spirleng attempting to get hold of a document related to Titchwell dispute. Or 965 which documents his attempt to find a will at the manor of Titchwell.

(8.) For example, letter 964, line 9, and letter 965, lines 25 to 28.

(9.) "... I receyvid by Henre Hannson on Thorsday last passid at iii after none certeyn lettres, amonges whiche I receyvid on from William Barker writen of Lukettes hand." See Norman Davis ed., Paston Letters and Papers, part 2, (letter 569, lines 2-3).

(10.) "de cancellaria domini Regis" (letter 574, lines 1 to 8).

(11.) Beadle "Geoffrey Spirleng," 123.

(12.) I am grateful for this suggestion, which was made to me by Professor Linne Mooney. Very little is known about the training of clerks in London. Thomas Frederick Tout wrote about the potential ways that these men could have been trained in "Literature and Learning in the English Civil Service in the Fourteenth Century," Speculum, 4, (October 1929): 368-369.

(13.) November 15, probably 1456: "... I shuld haue disseasid Ser Hue Fastolf of be manere, where as I haue sufficient evidences preuyng a trewe saale and purchace ..." (letter 569, lines 20 to 32).

(14.) Nantron did not inscribe his name on this document. The identification of his hand comes from comparison with Nantron's hand in Basset's Chronicle, which will be discussed later in this article.

(15.) He crossed out: "... wheche evedently apperith by the bille put in to the parlement Remaynyng with the lordes as by the surmys ofthe seyd sir philipp [...] with that for iij C marc the seid ser philipp hath hadde be day xvjC [...]" and wrote superscript to the deleted passage, "... be seyd fastolff and past men wer advayled ther by iii ton this day and [...] but the seid ffastolf wrongfully trowbled for the seyd oranoir wheche is his owen enheritances and that nowtwithstandyng yes compelled in the [...] to paye xx li ... of the seyd ciix li wheche is surmitted by this bille shuld growe to the kyng."

(16.) In c.1485, Barker wrote that upon Fastolfs death, he had been "late howshold servaunte be the space of xxi yere wyth Syr John Fastolf, Knyght, dysseysid" (letter 925, lines 6 to 16).

(17.) Line numbers here refer to the line number within the figure, rather than the line number of the original document.

(18.) This practice of sending a copy to Paston for his records was described by Beadle and Richmond in the headnote to letter 1035 in their edition: "in common with other Fastolf letters of this period, this exists as a copy forwarded to Paston and Bokkyng, presumably at the same time the original was sent to the primary addressee."

(19.) Beadle "Geoffrey Spirleng," 122.

(20.) These personal accounts are now Oxford, Magdalen College Archives, EP 176/9. Beadle "Geoffrey Spirleng," 122.

(21.) Louise Campbell, A Catalogue of Manuscripts in the College of Arms (London: College of Arms, 1988), 129.

(22.) Benedicta J. H. Rowe, "A Contemporary Account of the Hundred Years War from 1415 to 1429," English Historical Review 41 (1926): 504 to 513 (513).

(23.) K. B. McFarlane, "William Worcester: A Preliminary Survey," in England in the Fifteenth Century: Collected Essays, edited by K. B. McFarlane, 199 to 224 (London: Hambledon, 1981), 211.

(24.) In 1461, Clement Paston wrote to John Paston I promising him five marks and assuring him that, "... be remnawnte I trow I xall gett vp-on Cristofire Hanswm and Lwket" (letter 116, lines 38 to 39). Then in a letter written after 1466, Fastolf's executors claimed: "Item, dictus Johannes recepit per manus dicti Tome Howys, Willelmi Paston, Thome Playter, Thome Plummer de London, scryvaner, Christofori Hansson, armigeri, et Luce Nantron ad diuersas vices tam Londonijs quam in Suthwerk ..." (letter 906).

(25.) Anthony Smith, "Aspects of the Career of Sir John Fastolf 1380-1459." (D. Phil dissertation, Oxford University, 1982), 63 to 64.

(26.) Beadle "Geoffrey Spirleng," 10.

(27.) John Manley and Edith Rickert, The Text of The Canterbury Tales, Studied on the Basis of all Known Manuscripts, Volume I: Descriptions of the Manuscripts, (University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London, 1940), 187.

(28.) Martha Driver looked at the several manuscripts copied by Franciscus that demonstrate repeated co-operation between certain scribes and artists, and concluded that these connections "imply the existence of a coterie of artists who, like the Fastolf master and Richardus, worked in the fifteenth century." Martha Driver, "'Me fault faire': French Makers of Manuscripts for English Patrons." In Language and Culture in Medieval Britain. The French of England, c.ll00-c.l500. Edited by Jocelyn Wogan-Browne et al. (York Medieval Press, 2009), 431.

(29.) For more information about Adam Pinkhurst, see Linne R. Mooney, "Chaucer's Scribe," Speculum 81 (2006): 97-138.

(30.) For more information about Ricardus Franciscus, see Driver, "'Me fault faire': French Makers of Manuscripts for English Patrons."

(31.) For more information about the Hammond Scribe, see Linne Mooney, "More Manuscripts Written by a Chaucer Scribe," The Chaucer Review 30:4 (1996) and Mooney, "A New Manuscript by the Hammond Scribe Discovered by Jeremy Griffiths," in The English Medieval Book: Essays in Memory of Jeremy Griffiths, edited by Tony Edwards, Ralph Hanna and Vincent Gillespie (London: British Library, 2000), 113-23.
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Title Annotation:Nota Bene: Brief Notes on Manuscripts and Early Printed Books: Highlighting Little-known or Recently Uncovered Items or Related Issues
Author:Thorpe, Deborah
Publication:The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History
Article Type:Case study
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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