Communities of Practice: Thomas Hoccleve, London Clerks, and Literary Production

Sebastian Sobecki

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    The explosive growth of Europe’s literary culture in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was unprecedented as an urban phenomenon. Cities began to emerge as literary centers, and clerks and commercial scribes played a central role in this cultural shift. In London the hub for this activity was the city of Westminster and the area around Rolls House and Chancery Lane.

    New findings reveal that London's clerks and scriveners, who moved between English, French, and Latin, formed professional “communities of practice,” which played a significant part in the dissemination of literary manuscripts. These findings are transforming our knowledge of the contexts of English literary culture, book production, and ideas of authorship. This article will concentrate on a few connected communities of practice centered on Westminster and civic clerks, and on the use of the secretary script during this period. In the world of London’s communities of practice, the poet and Privy Seal clerk Thomas Hoccleve emerges as a central figure.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)51-106
    Number of pages56
    JournalJournal of the Early Book Society
    Publication statusPublished - 2021

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