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Professor Malcolm Parkes R.I.P.

1930 – 2013

Those of use enthralled by the work of Dr Elizabeth Garner and interested in genuine academia will be greatly saddened to learn of the death on 26th June of Professor Malcolm Parkes.

A Fellow of Keble College, Oxford for more than 30 years, Professor Parkes was appointed in 1996 to the chair of Palaeography, the first in the university’s long history. His first book ‘English Cursive Book Hands 1250 – 1500’ was published in 1969 and remains the authoritative work on the subject. A later work concerning the identification of scribes from late antiquity to the 16th century was based on his Lyell Lectures. Always rigorous his scholarship he would point out during lectures that when it came to faking “whilst it is easy to imitate another’s letter-forms; it is very much more difficult to imitate their spaces”.

His humour and sangfroid where legendary. On one occasion he briefly fell asleep during a lecture and on waking could not remember what his lecture was about, so he leaned over the shoulder of a student to read her notes aloud, and seamlessly carried on. On another occasion whilst in France he accidently locked himself out of his car. As he tried to open the door using a wire coat-hanger an angry crowd gathered & the police were called. In a English accent he declared “ Je suis cambriorleur specialiste” ( I am a master burglar ) thus diffusing an increasingly ugly situation.

A visiting professor at Konstanz, Minneapolis and Harvard universities. A member of the Institute of Advanced Study at Princetown. A Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, and of the Comit’e international de pal’eographie latine.

At his funeral, a Keble College Book of Hours that he had catalogued lay open on his coffin.

He will be sorely missed by family, friends and all those interested in genuine research & academia.