Early Middle English- gina Pestak

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The Tremulous Hand of Worcester

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The Tremulous Hand of Worcester is the title given to a 13th century glossator of Old English manuscripts with handwriting characterized by large, shaky, leftward leaning figures usually written in light brown ink. He is assumed to have worked in Worcester because all manuscripts identified as his work have been connected to Worcester.

Contents [hide]

	1 Variation in Work 
	2 Layers
	3 Manuscripts
	4 References  	

Variation in Work

The Tremulous Hand of Worcester is suggested to have had a long career in glossing due to the variability in his work. He is credited to have over 50,000 glosses written in both Middle English and in Latin.

In some manuscripts one out of every four words is glossed, while in other manuscripts only one or two glosses appear on a page. While glossing Old English texts he is also known to have edited the works, adding punctuation marks, vowels or consonance changing the sounds of Old English words to be more like their Middle English counterparts. His earliest work is predominantly glossed in Middle English, but later he begins to gloss equally in both Middle English and Latin.

Although he is most typically identified by light brown ink, the Tremulous Hand used multiple media types and his glossing evolved throughout his career, showing a considerable range characterized by variable “layers.”

Layers In order to differentiate between the variability in The Tremulous Hand of Worcester’s glossing, Christine Franzen, a literary scholar, has categorized his work into seven accepted layers.

• M layer- The Mature Layer is the most characteristic of The Tremulous Hand of Worcester. It is glossed in light brown ink, is large in size with a conspicuous leftward angle. The tremble is most noticeable in the downward stroke. Middle English and Latin are used almost equally in this layer. Additionally, many of the glosses contain Latin abbreviations.

• B layer- The Bold Layer is related to the M layer but considered to be earlier in The Tremulous Hand of Worcester’s career. The letters are small and neat with a subtle leftward slant and downward tremble. The B layer is considered to be the neatest and most exact. The lettering is small, compact and cohesive. The B layer is written in dark brown ink.

• P layer- The Pencil layer is considered to be around the same time as the B layer, but earlier because some B letters occur on top of P letters. This layer is faint and often illegible, and written with a light pencil-like medium. The P layer is found in the margins of manuscripts, written equally in Middle English and Latin.

• C Layer- The Crayon Layer is considered to be around the same time as the M layer, but earlier because some M letters occur on top of C letters. This layer is written with a waxy, crayon like material in the margins of manuscripts. It has large, distinctly sloped lettering and is written equally in Middle English and Latin.

• D Layer- The Dark Layer is written almost entirely in Middle English with considerable pressure and in dark ink. The letters are small and neat, but have a distinct tremble. Only three manuscripts appear in the D layer, and they are all homilies. Additionally, the D layer has the most erasures.

• T Layer- The Text Layer applies specifically to the Worcester Cathedral MS F.174. This is an untidy, uneven text that seems unprofessional. It is written in dark ink with a distinct downward tremble and a thorn identical to the M layer.

• L Layer- The Large Layer is related to the T Layer, but differs in the lettering of “d.” In the Large Layer, the d has a round back.


The Tremulous Hand of Worcester is most widely known for glossing Aefric’s Grammar and Glossary, but is also credited with the Worcester manuscripts, St. Bede Lament and The Soul’s Address to the Body. Additionally, The Tremulous Hand of Worcester is considered to have glossed a segment of the Bodlein Manuscript Junius which contains the earliest Middle English translation of the Nicene Creed. The Tremulous Hand of Worcester is considered to have over 50,000 glosses in total.


Franzen, Christine. “On the Attribution of Additions in Oxford, Bodleian MS Bodley 343 to the Tremulous Hand of Worcester” ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes, and Reviews, 2006 Winter; 19 (1): 7-8.

Franzen, Christine. The Tremulous Hand of Worcester: A Study of Old English in the Thirteenth Century. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991.

Franzen, Christine. “The Tremulous Hand of Worcester and the Nero Scribe of the Ancrene Wisse” Medium Ævum, 2003; 72 (1): 13-31.

Evaluation Generally good, pretty informative. If there is any information on The Tremulous Hand's life (approximate dates, what church or abbey he was affiliated with if any), that might be helpful as well as just information about his work. Very cool selection, though. I wish I had a name like the Tremulous Hand. Grade: B

Excellent amount of material, and admirable job of covering the contributions made by the mysterious "Tremulous Hand". Grade: A

I enjoyed the well-organized and well-attacked plan that you stuck to here. One thing that I would suggest though would to assume a more authoritative voice especially at the beginning. It seemed "folksy" at time but the information was there. GRADE: A-

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