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New Directions in Later Medieval Manuscript Studies

New Directions in Later Medieval Manuscript Studies: Essays from the 1998 Harvard Conference

Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 230
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  • Book Info
    New Directions in Later Medieval Manuscript Studies
    Book Description:

    The study of manuscripts is one of the most active areas of current research in medieval studies: manuscripts are the basic primary material evidence for literary scholars, historians and art-historians alike, and there has been an explosion of interest over the past twenty years. Manuscript study has developed enormously: codices are no longer treated as inert witnesses to a culture whose character has already been determined by the modern scholar, but are active participants in a process of exploration and discovery. The articles collected here discuss the future of this process and vital questions about manuscript study for tomorrow's explorers. They deal with codicology and book production, with textual criticism, with the material structure of the medieval book, with the relation of manuscripts to literary culture, to social history and to the medieval theatre, and with the importance to manuscript study of the emerging technology of computerised digitisation and hypertext display. The essays provide an end-of-millennium perspective on the most vigorous developments in a rapidly expanding field of study. Contributors: A.I. Doyle, C. David Benson, Martha W. Driver, J.P. Gumbert, Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, Linne R. Mooney, Eckehard Simon, Alison Stones, John Thompson. DEREK PEARSALL is former Professor and Co-Director of the Centre for Medieval Studies, York, and Professor of English at Harvard University.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-024-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xv)

    The study of manuscripts is one of the most active areas of current research in medieval studies: manuscripts are the basic primary material evidence for literary scholars, historians and art-historians alike, and there has been an explosion of interest over the past twenty or twenty-five years. Manuscript study has developed enormously: codices are no longer treated as inert witnesses to a culture whose character has already been determined by the modern scholar, but are active participants in a process of exploration and discovery. All aspects of the manuscript’s physical existence are relevant to such an enquiry, not just the texts...

  6. Recent Directions in Medieval Manuscript Study
    (pp. 1-14)
    A.I. DOYLE

    You may have noticed the divergences of my title from that of the conference as a whole: ‘Recent’ for ‘New’ and ‘Study’ for ‘Studies’. I am not confident that much of what I am going to talk about, nor, I suspect, other speakers, is entirely new, and whereas they may legitimately devote their interest and attention to single approaches in the study of manuscript books of the high and later Middle Ages, I believe my task is to try to survey and relate all in a more inclusive view, and, riskily, to supply anticipated omissions. I hope it will be...

  7. Another Fine Manuscript Mess: Authors, Editors and Readers of Piers Plowman
    (pp. 15-28)

    Scholars refer so often to the constant rewriting ofPiers Plowmanand the order of its versions (A, B, C with perhaps an earlier Z) that we sometimes forget that both are speculative assumptions drawn from puzzling manuscript evidence.Piers Plowmansurvives in over fifty manuscripts representing about a dozen distinct textual forms. For example, there are six A-manuscripts with C endings, two textual traditions of the B-version, and one manuscript that combines the three principal versions.² There is an even greater variety of presentational and commentary schemes. SeveralPiersmanuscripts have more than the usual passus initials, others differently...

  8. A New Approach to the Witnesses and Text of the Canterbury Tales
    (pp. 29-40)
    N.F. BLAKE

    TheCanterbury Taleshas been edited regularly since Caxton’s first edition in 1476 [Cx1], but it was only in the nineteenth century that serious discussion of the textual problems commenced.¹ This debate was inspired by the renewed interest in textual and antiquarian studies as well as by the discovery of the Ellesmere [El] and Hengwrt [Hg] manuscripts.² From then on El became most editors’ base manuscript. The Chaucer Society published studies on the poem’s text and issued transcripts of earlyCanterbury Talesmanuscripts considered central to the textual tradition. Apart from El and Hg, these included Cambridge University Library MSS...

  9. Prospecting in the Archives: Middle English Verse in Record Repositories
    (pp. 41-52)

    Most of those who work with Middle English manuscripts will have some knowledge of the events which took place in Winchester School in June 1934. The Friends of the National Libraries were to visit the Fellows Library, and W. F. Oakeshott, who was at that time School Librarian and an assistant master, had prepared an exhibition for them and included in it MS 13, which he realized might hold some interest:

    The safe where the manuscripts were kept was not in the gallery, but in the warden’s bedroom . . . When I at last approached the safe with the...

  10. Medieval Manuscripts and Electronic Media: Observations on Future Possibilities
    (pp. 53-64)

    The application of electronic media to the study of medieval manuscripts is a concept only recently considered by scholars and teachers of the Middle Ages.¹ The implications for the shape of future scholarship are both enticing and hair-raising: the visionary proclaiming that the Internet will universalize access for anyone wishing to study or view the illuminated page, the Luddite gloomily mentioning the transitory nature of the Internet and commenting on the potential loss of access to actual material by serious scholars in the rush to reproduce manuscripts for all and sundry. This essay, meant to comfort the fearful and to...

  11. Representing the Middle English Manuscript
    (pp. 65-80)

    The relationship between older texts and post-medieval strategies for representing them goes back to the beginnings of printing in England. The earliest printers reflected some awareness of the distinctiveness of their received materials. Caxton, for example, included a thorn sort in his fonts for printing Middle English.¹ In the mid-sixteenth century John Day printed the first book using specially cut Anglo-Saxon types.² But for about 250 years after the introduction of printing into England the standard form of representing Middle English was by black letter. A typographic form that was initially the norm for all printing became increasingly restricted to...

  12. Skins, Sheets and Quires
    (pp. 81-90)

    In a conference on New Directions in Medieval Manuscript Studies, the newer developments in codicology ought to be represented. I regret that no speaker was found for Quantitative Codicology;¹ but at least some quite technical aspects can be discussed. And although these matters are often of scant relevance for those scholars – surely the vast majority – who study medieval manuscripts for the sake of their texts, still they have their interest as part of the history of a craft; and from time to time they are relevant to text scholars as well.

    Everybody knows whatfolio, quartoandoctavoare. In...

  13. Reconsidering the Auchinleck Manuscript
    (pp. 91-102)

    This paper builds upon hobby-horses I have been riding for perhaps a decade. First, manuscript study is valuable only insofar as it addresses through material products of human labour the large issues of cultural history. Second, since books are, within certain limits, localizable, they enable the construction of historical narratives. Most particularly, I think here of the need to replace a spent Old Literary History. This, leaving aside other debilities, is far too committed to a myth of the Nation and with it, a national literary tradition. In its stead, we should be studying Middle English Literatures 1100–1413, a...

  14. Professional Readers of Langland at Home and Abroad: New Directions in the Political and Bureaucratic Codicology of Piers Plowman
    (pp. 103-130)

    The professional readers ofPiers Plowmanare a much maligned group.¹ But I would like to suggest how further study of their habits and supposed atrocities can help us get closer to (in this case) the political circles in which Langland’s poem actually travelled – circles a little different from the ones we have lavished much of our scholarship upon so far. ‘Professional readers’, as I define them here, are those whose job it was to make decisions on behalf of the medieval reader about how the text should go down on the page –consciousdecisions, that is, about editing, annotating,...

  15. Professional Scribes? Identifying English Scribes Who Hada Hand in More Than One Manuscript
    (pp. 131-142)

    John Shirley, Thomas Hoccleve, John Capgrave, Stephen Doddesham, the ‘Ellesmere-Hengwrt scribe’, the ‘Hammond scribe’, the ‘Edmund-Fremund scribe’, the ‘hooked-g scribe’, ‘Doyle and Parkes’s scribe D’ are only a few of the scribes whose hands have been found in more than one medieval English manuscript. Identification of these hands began in the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, the volume of scholarly activity focussed on identification of hands has increased almost without interruption to the present day, as ease of transportation, greater accessibility to libraries, lower costs of photo-reproduction and new technologies have made it easier – though never easy – to compare...

  16. Manuscript Production in Medieval Theatre: The German Carnival Plays
    (pp. 143-166)

    If you were fortunate enough to be living in the city of Lubeck between 1430 and 1540, then in its glory days as queen of the Hanseatic League, you could have witnessed the performance of about two hundred carnival plays. Some were the usual kind, calledEinkehrspiele, that young men put on in many German towns. In a medieval form of home invasion, costumed mummers would go from house to house and perform brief sketches before carnival revelers gathered in a large room. In Lubeck, most players were choristers from the four church schools, making the rounds in groups of...

  17. The ‘Lancelot-Graal’ Project
    (pp. 167-182)

    This essay describes the rationale for the pilot phase of a computer data-base of text and pictures that we hope will eventually form a Corpus of ‘Lancelot–Graal’ manuscripts, will present a model for manuscript analysis in general, and will have a range of other applications beyond the field of manuscript studies. An international team of Old French specialists (Keith Busby, Elspeth Kennedy, Roger Middleton) and art historians and manuscript specialists (Susan Blackman, Martine Meuwese, Alison Stones) are collaborating with technical consultants in information science and telecommunications (Kenneth Sochats, Guoray Cai) to create and use a searchable database of primary...

  18. After Chaucer: Resituating Middle English Poetry in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Period
    (pp. 183-200)

    One of the major issues that faced humanities scholarship in the Final decades of last century is the status of evidence, a topic explored in print in the January 1996 issue ofPMLA, and one which has been variously taken up by a number of modern textual critics, including several medievalists who have recently been exploring the relative merits of the ‘old’ and ‘new’ philologies.² As the quotation from David Greetham at the head of this essay suggests, such a topic has important, if also sometimes uncomfortable, implications for both modern editors and codicologists in the brave new postmodern world...

    (pp. 201-202)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 203-213)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 214-214)