Title Background

(Addendum to the Annual Bibliography for 2014.)<i>The Piers Plowman Electronic Archive vol. 9: The B-Version Archetype</i>, vol. 9: The B-Version Archetype</i>

(Addendum to the Annual Bibliography for 2014.)The Piers Plowman Electronic Archive vol. 9: The B-Version Archetype, vol. 9: The B-Version Archetype

This edition aims to establish the archetypal readings of the witnesses to the B-Version of PPl. The editors claim that the readings of the archetype (Bx) can be established with certainty in the majority of lines. In the great Athlone edition George Kane and E. Talbot Donaldson argued that the archetype was a highly corrupt text of the poet’s B-version, though the medium of print did not give them sufficient space or means to distinguish conjectural emendation from emendation based on attested readings, or to discuss adequately the arguments against the received text and in favour of their preferred reading. Electronic publication provides the opportunity to unpack Kane-Donaldson’s work and to determine the readings of Bx, as a preparation for the final step of seeking to establish a critical text of the B-Version of PPl. The two key witnesses to Bx are shown to be Bodleian Library MS Rawlinson Poetry 38 (R), representing the alpha subarchetype, and Bodleian Library MS Laud Misc. 581 (L), representing beta, with additional support from British Library MS Additional 35287 (M). In principle, it is argued, the single witness of either L or M can represent beta against all the other manuscripts, though disagreement between L and M brings the remaining beta manuscripts into play. Where R is defective, Oxford, Corpus Christi College MS 201 (F) is used with great caution to represent alpha. The edition permits the display of the texts of the ten most significant manuscripts. L is chosen as copy-text, since it is much the most reliable of the B witnesses, and is without the text losses of R. Kane-Donaldson, followed by Schmidt, based themselves on Cambridge, Trinity College MS B.15.17 (W), because of its consistent spelling and systematic grammar, but recent studies show that its text has been processed for a London audience by imposing standard London spellings and Chaucerian grammar. Though the spelling system of L is not an entirely consistent representative of a single dialect, it is probable that Bx was also inconsistent, and likely enough that the poet himself, as a London immigrant, wrote forms reflecting his new environs as well as his native dialect. The presentation of the text follows the format established for diplomatic editions in the Piers Plowman Electronic Archive. There is a full set of textual annotations, discussing the choice between B variants at every point, as well as relevant AC readings.