Obituary: Jeremy Griffiths

Jeremy Griffiths was one of the the most colourful and engaging figures in English manuscript studies. His death cuts short a career of great, if largely unfulfilled, promise.

But there were substantial achievements, particularly the journal English Manuscripts Studies 1100-1700, which he founded in 1990 with Peter Beal and which has come to provide a crucial link between medieval and renaissance manuscript study. Equally important was the collaborative history Book Production and Publishing in Britain 1375-1475 (1989), which he co-edited with Derek Pearsall, the first major comprehensive study of this period and already established as a standard work.

Griffiths was born in 1955 and educated at Canford School, Dorset, and Leamington College. In 1973 he went up to Bangor to read English, graduating in 1976 with a First and the John F. Danby Memorial Prize. He stayed on to complete an MA and then went up to Oxford in 1977 to begin research for a DPhil on 15th- century English manuscript production. He quickly established himself as a figure of precocious authority, particularly gifted at identifying scribal hands and keenly interested in English manuscript illumination. He gave a number of provocative scholarly papers during this period; but they, like his thesis, remain unpublished at his death.

In the early 1980s he was employed as a lecturer at Lincoln and then St John's College, Oxford. In 1984 he became lecturer at Birkbeck College, London; he held this position until 1988. For some time before this he had been engaged in buying and selling manuscripts and acting as adviser to various individuals and dealers. In 1988 he resigned to become a freelance manuscript consultant and entrepreneur. He had brief incarnations as a publisher and dealer in prints and towards the end of his life managed his father's engineering firm. In many ways his instincts were those of the businessman and prevented him from taking the narrow world of academe too seriously.

The range of Griffiths' interests was so wide - they included a stint as war correspondent in Bosnia for the Independent - that his scholarly career inevitably suffered. There were a handful of excellent articles in scholarly journals, a couple of introductions to facsimiles and a few reviews. More substantial undertakings remained incomplete at his death, notably the collaborative Catalogue of the Manuscripts of John Gower's Confessio Amantis which he had in hand with Kate Harris and Derek Pearsall. He also left incomplete catalogues of the medieval manuscripts at St John's College, Oxford and at Holkham Hall in Norfolk.

Jeremy Griffiths was never simply an academic. The diversity of his interests was matched by an equally wide-ranging gift for friendship. The affection he inspired came from the generous concern he always showed and the unforced generosity of his hospitality, always buttressed by his love of good food and wine. In scholarly terms he had a gift for asking the right questions. If he did not always stay to answer them he usually could prompt someone to do so. His company was constant stimulus, both intellectually and personally.

Anthony Edwards

Jeremy John Griffiths, manuscript consultant; born Aberdare, Glamorgan 5 June 1955; married (marriage dissolved); died Oxford 14 August 1997.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

SharePoint Administrator/Developer (C#, VB.NET, VISUAL STUDIO 2

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SharePoi...

European HR Director, London

£80000 - £95000 per annum: Charter Selection: A leading Global organisation Ja...

European Senior HR Manager, London

£80000 - £90000 per annum: Charter Selection: A leading Global organisation is...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books