Title Background

Robert Crowley and the Editing of <i>Piers Plowman</i> (1550)

Robert Crowley and the Editing of Piers Plowman (1550)

The publication in 1550 of three editions of PPl, all edited by the radical Protestant printer and pamphleteer Robert Crowley, constitutes one of the most significant events in the history of the poem’s reception. Crowley’s editorial ministrations have, however, received mixed reviews, including accusations that he frequently failed to understand his text and that he occasionally altered it to suppress unpalatable Popish doctrine. Using evidence from both horizontal collation (stop-press correction and reset gatherings within editions) and vertical collation (correction and other alteration between editions), the essay argues that Crowley was a proto-critical editor who laboured diligently to present as accurate a text as possible, even to the extent of thoroughly re-editing the text for his second edition once additional manuscripts had been brought to his attention. It also demonstrates that the claims that he altered the text to reflect his Protestant bias are unfounded. Finally, through a consideration of new readings introduced in his second and third editions, it identifies several extant manuscripts that were probably used for the revisions, notably Cambridge University Library, MS Gg.iv.31. (RCH)