Evidence for the stemma of the Piers Plowman B Manuscript.
Examines the relationship between MSS. Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud Misc. 581 (=L), London, BL, Add 35287 (=M), Oxford Bodleian Library, Rawlinson 38 (=R), and Oxford, Corpus Christi College, 201(=F). Adams presents information from work on the Piers Plowman Electronic Archive showing that shared readings of these four, though not a subgroup, attest to the B archetype (Bx), even when the readings are shared by no other MS. Schmidt recognized this, but not other implications of the stemma linking these MSS.: namely, that Crowley’s second printed text is mostly copied from O and has no independent authority, but Crowley’s first derives from a MS. nearly as close to Bx as these MSS.; that all beta branch MSS. except L and M derive from that exemplar; and that R (from alpha) is closer to Bx than F. The result of these and other indications is that L is the most authoritative single MS. of the B version of PPl, and when it agrees with R, they are witnessing Bx. Rigorous stemmatic editing of PPl remains impossible, but the Piers Plowman Electronic Archive has arrived at a view not far from Schmidt’s: that Bx is essentially reconstructable by recension. An appendix presents LMRF agreements in various configurations.