This is a guest post from Pamela Robinson, Institute of English Studies, University of London
The recent death of the eminent palaeographer, Professor M.B. Parkes, saddened the many who had the good fortune to know him as an inspirational teacher, colleague, and friend. As such, he was the subject of many fond anecdotes as seen in a short series of reminiscences which served as the introduction to the Festschrift published on the occasion of his retirement, Of the Making of Books: Medieval Manuscripts, their Scribes and Readers; essays presented to M.B. Parkes (ed. P.R. Robinson and R. Zim), Scolar Press, 1997.
Intellectually generous and hospitable, Parkes remained in retirement ever willing to help both students and established scholars in their researches with his sage advice and accumulated knowledge of all aspects of medieval book production. Parkes’ own works had an immediate and profound impact, and no doubt a long-lasting influence, on the subject with a wide audience as required reading for any serious student of the history of the medieval book.
His first book, English Cursive Book Hands 1250-1500, the second edition of which was published in 1979 by Scolar, reprinted Ashgate 2008, has not been superseded as an essential guide to the development of the handwriting of the later Middle Ages. He became an Ashgate author when Scolar Press became an Ashgate imprint in 1986.
His Pause and Effect: an introduction to the history of punctuation in the West, 1992, is the fundamental book-length study of this important topic, while his last work, Their Hands Before Our Eyes: a closer look at scribes, 2008, based on his Lyell Lectures in the University of Oxford, 1998-9, reflects a lifetime of meticulous scholarship on all aspects of book culture.
One collection of significant articles by him was published as Scribes, Scripts and Readers in 1991, and under the Variorum imprint, Ashgate has recently published a second, Pages from the Past: Medieval Writing Skills and Manuscript Books (ed. P.R. Robinson and R. Zim), 2012, being the 1000th title in the Variorum Collected Studies series.