Manuscripts or Wine?

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship (Alcuin)

After a short absence in England (790-3), Alcuin, who had already been appointed abbot of St Loup near Troyes and of Ferrieres near Orleans, was made abbot of St Martin’s at Tours, which he soon restored to a commanding position among the schools of the land. He taught his monks to use the pen instead of the spade and hoe, telling them that copying Mss was better than cultivating the vine. Under his rule the clear and precise hand known as the Caroline Minuscule was developed at Tours; and ‘the script, which was accepted as the standard in the imperial schools, served seven centuries later as a model for the first type-founders of Italy and France’. Alcuin sent some of his monks to England for books”, and continued in constant correspondence with scholars in the land of his birth and the land of his adoption. He was himself a scholar and a teacher to the last : ‘ in the morning of his life ‘ (in the language of one of his letters) ‘ he had sowed in Britain ; and now, in the evening of that life, he ceased not to sow in France’. He died in 804, four years after Charles had been crowned Emperor in Rome.

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