Geuyng Light to the Reader’: Robert Crowley’s Editions of Piers Plowman (1550)
Despite many casual critical observations, there is no evidence that PPl was among those books banned from publication in early modern England. There are reasons for its relative absence from the book market, however: Caxton and others perhaps felt that the archaic diction and meter of this poem would render it unreadable and unfashionable. Yet Crowley seems to have published this poem to fulfill a “public service, to further the ends of his radical religion by invoking the historical basis of English Protestant theology.” That Crowley printed this poem on vellum, suggests a like-minded, elite, Latin literate readership; that he reprinted this text with glosses, some of which are polemical, suggests a middle-class audience unfamiliar with Latin. All told, Crowley tries to produce a faithful edition.