Thomson, Rodney M(alcolm) 1946-

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THOMSON, Rodney M(alcolm) 1946-

PERSONAL:

Male. Born 1946. Education: University of Melbourne, M.A.; University of Sidney, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Faculty of Arts, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 44, Hobart 7001, Australia. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Educator, editor, and author. University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, emeritus professor of history in School of History and Classics, 1998—.

WRITINGS:

(Editor, translator, and author of introduction and notes) Tractatus Garsiae; or, The Translation of the Relics of SS. Gold and Silver, Brill (Leiden, Netherlands), 1973.

(Editor and translator) The Chronicle of the Election of Hugh, Abbot of Bury St. Edmunds and Later Bishop of Ely, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1974.

(Editor) The Life of Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1977.

(Editor) The Archives of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, Boydell Press for Suffolk Records Society (Woodbridge, Suffolk, England), 1980.

Manuscripts from St. Albans Abbey, 1066-1235, D.S. Brewer (Woodbridge, Suffolk, England), 1982.

William of Malmesbury, Boydell Press (Woodbridge, Suffolk, England), 1987, revised edition, 2003.

(Editor) Alexander Nequam, Speculum Speculationum, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1988.

Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Lincoln Cathedral Chapter Library, D. S. Brewer (Woodbridge, Suffolk, England), 1989.

(Editor, with R. A. B. Mynors) Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Hereford Cathedral Library, Boydell Press (Rochester, NY), 1993.

England and the Twelfth-Century Renaissance, Ash-gate (Brookfield, VT), 1998.

(Completed text, with M. Winterbottom) William of Malmesbury, Gesta regum Anglorum: The History of the English Kings, edited and translated by R. A. B. Mynors, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1998-99.

The Bury Bible, Boydell Press (Rochester, NY), 2001.

A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval Manuscripts in Worcester Cathedral Library, D. S. Brewer (Woodbridge, Suffolk, England), 2001.

(Editor, with M. Winterbottom) William of Malmesbury, Saints' Lives: Lives of SS. Wulfstan, Dunstan, Patrick, Benignus, and Indract, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor to numerous academic journals.

SIDELIGHTS:

Rodney M. Thomson, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Tasmania, has edited and written several books focusing on aspects of English history and medieval texts. For his early books, such as The Chronicle of the Election of Hugh, Abbot of Bury St. Edmunds and Later Bishop of Ely, Thomson both edited and served as the translator of medieval Latin texts. In his 1982 book, Manuscripts from St. Albans Abbey, 1066-1235, Thomson provides a comprehensive and detailed study of sixty-five manuscripts produced for St. Albans Abbey from 1066 to 1235, as well as other manuscripts owned by the abbey's dependant cells and produced for other patrons. In the process, as noted by Jennifer M. Sheppard in English Historical Review, Thomson "directs his attention primarily to the books themselves, their scribes and annotators, decorators, illuminators and binders, as evidence of the degree and quality of the patronage of its abbots." Sheppard goes on to comment, "Thomson's careful and impartial interpretation of the evidence is exemplary." Speculum contributor Richard W. Pfaff noted, "In this major work on the book production from a single monastic house Rodney Thomson has given us far more than a study of a particular scriptorium; he has opened up the intellectual and cultural life of one of England's half-dozen greatest monasteries."

In William of Malmesbury, Thomson produces a comprehensive study and interpretation of the intellectual achievements of one of England's greatest historians. William of Malmesbury (c. 1090-c. 1143) was well known for his historical writings, including Deeds of the Bishops, and was a biblical commentator, hagiographer, and classicist. He also served as his own librarian, bibliographer, scribe, and editor of texts. In his book, Thomson reveals the man and his times while discussing some of Malmesbury's earliest books and his "scriptorium" (a room in which medieval manuscripts were copied). Some reviewers found that the book does not represent a well-rounded biography and that it contains structural weaknesses because many of the chapters come from previously written essays and, as a result, lack coherence as a whole. English Historical Review contributor David Corner, for example, commended Thomson as "a remarkably gifted textual scholar" but also added that Thomson was "already in a position to offer a clearer picture than the one he has chosen to present." Writing in American Historical Review, Roger Ray praised Thomson for his expertise in text and source criticism and noted that the author "shows a broad knowledge of the relevant manuscripts and of the books William saw."

In his Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Lincoln Cathedral Chapter Library, Thomson describes medieval and other manuscripts found in the library as well as ten manuscripts now housed elsewhere. The manuscripts include biblical commentaries and sermons, pastoral theology, and Middle English texts, including the famous Thornton Romances. Thomson also provides a history of the Cathedral Library, and the book includes plates and lists of manuscripts cited, owners, donors, scribes, annotators, and incipits (the opening words of a text). Medium Aevum contributor B. C. Barker-Benfield noted that, despite some outstanding manuscripts, many of them are "a dull lot." He also commented, "Yet studied together in Rodney Thomson's catalogue, even the most boring volumes gain interest from their context." In a review in Library, Margaret Gibson noted, "This is sober, devoted work which puts us all in Professor Thomson's debt."

The Bury Bible is Thomson's examination of Romanesque art created at Bury St. Edmunds abbey in the twelfth century. This monument to English art in a Bible manuscript was commissioned around 1135 and belongs to a small group of outstanding English bibles created around that time period. The book, which includes some of the masterpieces of English Romanesque painting by Master Hugh, is a facsimile just under full size. In addition to the reproduction of the Bible itself, Thomson discusses the manuscript's production and its historic place among English manuscripts and art. Stephen Medcalf, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, called the work a "splendid volume" and noted, "Rodney Thomson deserves our thanks for producing so beautiful a book, which draws out from what can seem the impersonal strangeness of the Romanesque visual world an artist of such disconcerting range and capacity for growth."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Historical Review, fall, 1989, Roger Ray, review of William of Malmesbury, p. 116.

Book Collector, spring, 1991, Rosamond McKitterick, review of Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Lincoln Cathedral Chapter Library, pp. 114-116.

English Historical Review, April, 1985, Jennifer M. Sheppard, review of Manuscripts from St. Albans Abbey, 1066-1235, pp. 365-366; April, 1990, David Corner, review of William of Malmesbury, pp. 427-428.

History Today, November, 2001, Anne Pointer, review of The Bury Bible, p. 54.

Library, December, 1994, Margaret Gibson, review of Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Lincoln Cathedral Chapter Library, pp. 337-338.

Medium Aevum, spring, 1991, B. C. Barker-Benfield, review of Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Lincoln Cathedral Chapter Library, pp. 105-107; spring, 2001, Patrick Nold, review of England and the Twelfth-Century Renaissance, p. 187.

Reference and Research Book News, May, 1999, review of England and the Twelfth-Century Renaissance, p. 167.

Speculum, April, 1984, Richard W. Pfaff, review of Manuscripts from St. Albans Abbey, 1066-1235, pp. 445-447; October, 1992, Thomas Hahn, review of William of Malmesbury, pp. 1052-1053.

Times Literary Supplement, June 8, 1990, Teresa Webber, review of Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Lincoln Cathedral Chapter Library, p. 618; January 17, 2003, Stephen Medcalf, review of The Bury Bible, p. 12.*

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