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Publication details for Dr John-Henry ClayClay, John-Henry (2009). Gift-giving and books in the letters of St Boniface and Lul. Journal of Medieval History 35(4): 313-325.
- Publication type: Journal Article
- ISSN/ISBN: 0304-4181
- DOI: 10.1016/j.jmedhist.2009.08.004
- Keywords: Boniface, Lul, Anglo-Saxons, gifts, letters, books, codicology
- Further publication details on publisher web site
- Durham Research Online (DRO) - may include full text
Author(s) from Durham
The Anglo-Saxon missionary and archbishop St Boniface (d. 754) and Lul, his protégé and successor in the see Mainz (d. 768), left behind a rich collection of letters that has become and invaluable source in our understanding of Boniface's mission. This article examines the letters in order to elucidate the customs of gift-giving that existed between those who were involved in the mission, whether directly or as external supporters. It begins with a brief overview of anthropological models of gift-giving, followed by a discussion of the portrayal of gift-giving in Anglo-Saxon literature. Two features of the letters of Boniface and Lul are then examined - the giving of gifts and the giving of books - and a crucial distinction between them revealed. Although particular customs of gift-giving between the missionaries and their supporters were well-established, and indeed bore some resemblance to 'secular' gift-giving customs depicted in Anglo-Saxon poetry, books, while exchanged frequently, were consistently excluded from the ritualised structures of gift-giving. A dual explanation for this phenomenon is proposed: first, that books were of greater practical importance to the mission than other forms of gifts; second, that their status as sacred texts rendered them as unsuitable for inclusion within rituals that depended upon the giver emphatically belittling the material worth of their own gift.