LONDON (AP) – Until now, we knew him only as Adam, a worker of somewhat sloppy habits who often annoyed his master.

The mysterious medieval scribe who wrote the earliest and most authoritative copies of Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” has now been revealed as Adam Pinkhurst, the son of a southern English landowner, according to an American academic working at Cambridge University.

Professor Linne Mooney, a visiting fellow at Cambridge’s Corpus Christi College, identified the scribe based on the handwriting of Pinkhurst as he signed his oath on joining the Scriveners’ Company of London in the 1390s.

“Lots of people have looked at these records before, but they did not happen to be people who were working on scribes,” Mooney told The Guardian newspaper in an interview published Tuesday.

Mooney, an English professor the University of Maine, has compiled a database of the names and work of more than 200 scribes working in England between 1375 and 1425.

Chaucer did not finish writing the Canterbury Tales and died in 1400, 76 years before William Caxton introduced the printing press to England, so all the early copies of the tales are in manuscript form.

The earliest surviving copy is the so-called “Hengwrt” manuscript, now in the National Library of Wales. The copy most often used as a base for new editions of the tales is the later “Ellesmere” manuscript, now in the Henry E. Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

Scholars have long accepted that both were written by the same scribe, but this is the first time he has been identified.

Mooney says her study shows Chaucer also supervised Pinkhurst in copying the first manuscripts of his prose translation of Boethius’s “Consolation of Philosophy” and “Troilus and Criseyde,” written in the 1380s.

Mooney said she found Pinkhurst’s signature in the “Common Paper,” or book of company regulations kept by the Scriveners’ Company of London and signed by all new members.

She believes Pinkhurst was the son of a small landowner and probably came from Surrey county in southern England and that his surname derived from Pinkhurst Farm, near Abinger Common, between the towns of Guildford and Dorking.

He went to London to learn the art of scrivening and make his living as a Writer of Court Letter, those trained in writing and the correct forms for legal documents.

It is not known how Pinkhurst came to know Chaucer, who for 12 years was Controller of the Wool Custom, working daily at the Custom House adjoining the Tower of London and living in rooms at nearby Aldgate.

Chaucer made no secret of his frustration with his careless scribe.

In a poem, “Chaucer’s Wordes Unto Adam His Own Scriveyne,” published after Chaucer’s death, he laments, “So oft a day I mot (must) thy werke renewe/It to correct, and eke (also) to rubbe and scrape/And all is thorowe (through) thy necligence and rape (haste).”

On the Net:

Cambridge University news,

AP-ES-07-20-04 1417EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.