This pioneering book studies the function and status of the written word in Carolingian society in France and Germany in the eighth and ninth centuries. It demonstrates that literacy was by no means confined to a clerical elite, but was dispersed in lay society and used for government and administration, as well as for ordinary legal transactions among the peoples of the Frankish kingdom. While employing a huge range of primary material, the author does not confine herself to a functional analysis of the written word in Carolingian northern Europe but goes on to assess the consequences and implications of literacy for the Franks themselves and for the subsequent development of European society after 1000.
"Scholars will find this book an essential reference book for questions of medieval European literacy. It is invaluable in its wealth of information about manuscripts, scribes, monastic patrons, Carolingian nobility, and lay owners of books." Marsha L. Dutton, Hanover College, in The Library Quarterly "McKitterick has written an important book which more than repays careful study. She has opened areas for examination which will be expanded, and those topics which she has neglected -- inscriptions are a good example, which she notes -- will be developed. Her fine manuscript index is very helpful... McKitterick's work makes a contribution to current historical debate far in excess of its intended compass." Bernard S. Bachrach, Journal of Interdisciplinary History