[Piers] the [Plowman]: The Corrections, Interventions, and Erasures of Huntington MS Hm 143 (X).
This essay argues that the corrections and erasures of San Marino, Huntington Library, MS Hm 143 (X) are of interest not only to textual editors working to establish the C text of PPl, but also because our study of ‘manuscript culture, readership, and scribal practice can speak directly to historical and literary-critical issues that are at the heart of Middle English studies today’ (p. 169). The essay builds on and engages with work of John Bowers, Carl Grindley, and George Russell, who have all contributed to the analysis of the manuscripts as artifact. The corrector, referred to as ‘Hand 2’, ‘does not merely seek to preserve the authority of Hand 1’s exemplar, even if he does sometimes evince interest in that exemplar’s putative readings. He also shows himself to be an interested reader of the poem, concerned with clergy, confession, and pastoral care’ (p. 171). This observation provokes questions ‘about our understanding of textuality, authority, and correction, as well as about the charged topic of the relationship between Langland and Wycliffism’ (p. 171). In this context, the second aim of this essay is to show that the other form of alteration to which Hm 143 has been subjected — the comprehensive erasure of the terms Peres and plouhman — ‘must be dated, whoever did it, close to the time of the manuscript’s production rather than, as some have speculated, during the Reformation’ (p. 171). ‘The alterations and erasures of Hm 143’, this essay concludes, ‘invite us to peer into the processes of the early production of PPl, revealing many of the ways in which the poem was, and is, always being edited, whether the instrument is knife, quill, or XML mark-up’ (p. 172).