The Parker Library has played host to several film crews so far this year. The most recent of them didn’t come to see one of our visually impressive manuscripts like the Bury Bible or Matthew Paris’ Chronica maiora; instead they came to film a small, rather unprepossessing Old English volume, MS 383.
The crew were making a programme on the history of childhood for a forthcoming season on BBC4. The presenter, Dr Stephen Baxter, is a medieval historian from King’s College, London who was particularly interested in MS 383, a collection of Anglo-Saxon law codes, for the light it cast on the transition from childhood to adulthood in Anglo-Saxon England. His focus was the system known as the frankpledge by which each boy at the age of 12 became a member of a tithing or group of ten individuals, each of whom would be held responsible for the behaviour of the others. If one member was summoned to the court, the others were responsible for producing him or they would all be punished.
It was fascinating to watch the team at work. And great to have such a knowledgeable presenter who was comfortable handling the manuscript – and reading the Old English text!