Title Background

Putting it Right: The Corrections of Huntington Library MS. HM 128 and BL Additional MS. 35287.

Putting it Right: The Corrections of Huntington Library MS. HM 128 and BL Additional MS. 35287.

The variability of the text of PPl is a commonplace and often obscures the pains scribes took to “get their text right,” or even over-right; although, this resulted sometimes in piling “confusion onto confusion.” The scribes of Huntington Library MS. HM 128 (Hm and Hm2) and BL Add. MS. 35287 (M) both corrected their texts laboriously in a manner that cannot fully be accounted for. Describing this activity, however, is useful as it shows what scribes considered “textually important” in copying L’s text. Hm and M belong to a group that includes Cambridge, Trinity College MS. B.15.17 (W) and two others dating from the sixteenth century. All three medieval hands are a similar practiced Anglicana and the scribes probably worked “within a network” where they could obtain texts for correction. The essay also argues that the “house-style” of professional London scribes is best represented by W. In Hm some correction takes the form of passages being rewritten to include missing lines, but the “vast majority” of the corrections are to do with orthography, particularly the final . The provincial scribe attempts this last “unintelligently and unmethodically” betraying a lack of understanding of the meter of the poems (Prick of Conscience and PPl) and a “vain wish to emulate a more fashionable scribe.” The corrections in M (s. xv in.), written by a scribe from the South-West Midlands, are more complex. They do not seem to evidence a different textual tradition, but rather, mostly are to “change spelling” in “the direction of London English” used by the most professional scribes, i.e., Type III, on the model of W, the most consistent example of this dialect among the B MSS. These cases of Hm and M may represent the dilemma for scribes from the South-West Midlands who “thought it important to present” L as both a local and a metropolitan poet in their copying but without being totally au fait with metropolitan conventions, scribal and poetic.


YLS 16 (2002): 41–65.


Turville-Petre, Thorlac.