From Professional to Private Readership: A Discussion and Transcription of the Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Marginalia in Piers Plowman C-Text, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Digby 102.
The study of marginalia in PPl has been restricted to the more famous manuscripts; investigating the annotations in a lesser-known C manuscript, Digby 102, however, can “offer much to enhance our understanding . . . of how contemporaries received Langland’s work” (82). Moreover, the majority of Digby 102’s 480 written annotations were made in the sixteenth century, thus providing a valuable indication of how later readers responded to PPl. Ninety-seven annotations are the work of a scribe who was a “professional reader,” i.e., a scribe associated with the production of the volume whose concern is to make the text more accessible for future readers. About 60% of the fifteenth-century scribal annotations highlight “passages of religious, social, moral, or political significance”; this percentage indicates that scribal readers were focused more on the polemical nature of PPl than on its narrative intricacies (83). The sixteenth-century annotator was most likely a private owner annotating for personal reading. “In addition to the somewhat typical annotations which aid in reading and comprehension,” this reader also uses a good deal of “Textual Extrapolation,” which would indicate personal rather than professional use (89). These peculiarly bilingual annotations—the annotator supplies Latin words when summarizing passages of the poem where no Latin appears, and vice versa—are particularly concerned with “social domestic issues,” such as marriage and sexuality (94). A transcription of the marginalia in Digby 102 is provided at the end of the essay.